Organizers of New London Live Dance!, a benefit for the New London Dance Initiative held at , might have hoped for a better turnout at Friday night’s event but they couldn’t have asked for better performances or for a more enthusiastic crowd.
Dancers put their best foot forward in an eclectic program that included classical ballet, salsa, hip hop, modern, jazz, and tap. Connecticut Ballet dancers Kate Loh, Milan Misko, and Kirsten Prescott kicked off the program with Paganini’s Pas de Trois, choreographed by Connecticut Ballet founder and artistic director Brett Raphael.
The evening ranged from the romantic, with a modern dance performance by New York-based Adam’s Company Dance, to the emotionally raw with Colors of Life performances based on themes of domestic abuse and homelessness. The hometown crowd reserved its greatest enthusiasm for hip hop and salsa performances by Epic dance crew and Kiks Dance Center, which were choreographed by New London High School students. Community Dance Ensemble Teen Company tapped out the end of the show with Shim Sham 42nd Street.
The purpose of the show was to generate excitement and raise money for New London Dance Initiative, a scholarship program that Raphael hopes will bring new opportunities to New London’s youth. Scholarships will be awarded by a panel of judges, all dance professionals, at auditions scheduled to be held later this month.
The first audition will be held at New London High School on April 11 from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m., the second on April 13 at from 2:30 to 4 p.m., and later that same day at from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Auditions will take the form of a dance class, so no prepared pieces are required. All aspiring middle school- and high school-age dancers are encouraged to attend.
“It’s open to everybody, regardless of previous training,” says Raphael. “What’s the worst that can happen? You have a good dance class.”
Scholarships, funded in part by a $4,000 grant from the , will be awarded to a handful of students to further their dance training but recipients get much more than a check. “We sit down and create a program depending on the needs,” says Raphael. That could include basic dance training in a variety of different dance forms including tap and jazz, ballet and ballroom, hip hop and Latin dance, depending on the individual students’ talents and interests. Scholarships might pay for summer dance programs or be used to pay for transportation to and from dance classes, if that’s been an obstacle for students in the past.
Too often, Raphael says, he sees high school students with plenty of raw talent but without any of the skills or basic training they need to have a hope of succeeding in the dance world. By the time they come to him, he says, it’s too late. Raphael hopes these scholarships will change that by giving kids an opportunity to begin formal dance training early so they can pursue their passions later.
“Accelerated training is so important if you want to go all the way,” says Raphael. “We want to give you a head start.”
For more information about New London Dance Initiative’s Scholarship Program, visit connecticutballet.com or call Connecticut Ballet at (860) 293-1039.