Where do youth from low-income families with a great passion for dance go to learn an art that can cost a great deal of money? 

Until 2000, there was really no place for these gifted youngsters to go to explore their untapped talents in the East Nashville area.

That is until Rejoice School of Ballet opened its door with a simple mission: “to provide an excellent dance education to children from low-income families with a Christian focus.” The school specializes in ballet, but also offers its students lessons in African, jazz funk and modern dance.

Rejoice is the brainchild of Patricia Cross, Executive Director, who desired to use her skills to educate these blossoming proteges. Cross founded the school after learning that there are many children whom would like to learn dance, but simply could not afford it.

Cross says that she maintains a small staff of individuals who bring over 100 years of experience to these emerging children. The school instructs students ranging in age from 4-16 years old.

"We're willing to retain them until they graduate high school," Cross said. "We serve 80 students per year with a teaching staff of eight."

More than 75% of the student population participate in the free or reduced lunch programs at their schools, and thus receive a largely discounted rate of a mere $10.00 per month for classes and supplies necessary for participation in the program. 

“If there is a showed need that they can’t afford the ten dollars," Cross said. "For example we’ve had a student that was homeless and couldn’t pay the fee, so we waived it. The other 25% are on a sliding scale."

Furthermore, the school will attempt to assist students academically by locating potential tutors if a need arises on a case by case basis.

Currently the school is producing The Little Engine that Could, which follows the classic children’s tale and incorporates children in wheelchairs as trains in the piece. Pearl Cohn High School Theatre will host the first showing on Saturday, Oct. 9 at 2 p.m. Belmont University will also feature two performances on Oct. 15-16 at 6:30 p.m.

Rejoice relies on financial gifts from foundations, businesses and private supporters to continue providing services to children. Anyone whom wishes to volunteer for or donate to the program may do so on their website http://www.rejoiceschoolofballet.org/ or contact Cross directly at (615)210-1147. Additionally, tickets to current and future productions are available through both sources or calling 800-387-5584.

Photo courtesy of Red Bull

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