Washington Ballet's scholarships for students invite diversity

WASHINGTON (WJLA) - The Washington Ballet’s “Nutcracker” features some of the nation’s top professional dancers – as well as students who balance ballet with school.

“I go to ballet on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays," says Reese Richburg.

Unlike many companies of the past, the Washington Ballet puts a premium on diversity.

"Art is at its most powerful when people can see themselves in the art," says Septime Webre, Artistic Director at the Washington Ballet.

"We want our ballet company and our school to reflect what our city looks like," adds Katrina Toews, Director of TWB at THEARC.

This week at the Warner Theatre, a special performance was held for students – many of whom had never been to the ballet before.

"I like the dancing -- you know -- spinning!" says Garrison Graham from Cleveland Elementary School.

Others are training with the Washington Ballet’s "Dance D.C." program.

"It was so fun that you get to stand on your tippy-toes and everything!" says eight-year-old Tyler Hardy, who is a Turner Rocket third grader.

"They were not shy," says eight-year-old Angel Merino, who is a Bruce Monroe student, as well as{ } D.C. Dance student. "They were really strong and they weren't nervous."

Ten-year-old Nutcracker ballerina and National Presbyterian School student Caroline Hold has danced in performances staged at THEARC in Anacostia.

“I think it's a good idea because then people who like ballet will actually get to see ballet...and they don't have to go to like a far away place to see it," she smiles.

Leaders of this nationally recognized dance company say that bringing the ballet to the inner city will help students excel in all walks of life.

"It's not just a warm and fuzzy place, it's also a place where a kid comes and learns the life lessons of focus, hard work, discipline," says Webre. "Even if they don't remain in ballet."