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Dance class opens up a new world, opportunities for Chesapeake Terrace Elementary student.


By Chet Dembeck
The Dundalk Patch
March 8, 2011


Chesapeake Terrace Elementary principal Renee Johnson sums up the essence of providing a good education for the children of Edgemere this way: “We want them to understand that they have unlimited possibilities in their lives.”

That’s what 11-year-old Dakotah Price discovered when he and 49 other fifth graders participated in a one-week special dance program called “Ballroom Stars” earlier this school year. Funded by a $500 grant and brought to the school through the efforts of Chesapeake Terrace’s gym teacher Troy Jones, Dakotah transformed his natural dancing ability into a potential lifelong career path through the unique program.

Unlike most of the other boys who participated in the program, which Jones plans to repeat, Dakotah showed no reluctance in  getting  involved, readily performing his articulate dance moves without inhibition.

“He stood out from the rest,” says Jones.

Dakotah’s performances did not go unnoticed. His hip-hop dance improvisation impressed the county’s dance resource teacher Suzanne Henneman so much that she immediately thought of the Peabody Institute. The teachers put their heads together and arranged an audition for Dakota,  who won a scholarship to study ballet on weekends at the Peabody Institute in Baltimore on the spot.

Unexpected Opportunity

As Dakotah describes his love for dancing, his language is precise and impassioned. When asked if he felt he stood out from the rest of  his classmates because he was more talented, he answers diplomatically.

“I wouldn’t say that,” he replies. “It’s just what I do best.”

Dakotah, unlike some in his new Peabody ballet class, never had any formal training. Yet he’s getting up to speed by practicing hard.

“Sometimes after the exercises I am sore,” he admits. “But you have to keep yourself determined and not let anything get in the way.”

Dance experts agree that such a Spartan attitude is necessary for anyone who aspires to enter the brutally competitive world of professional dancing—and Dakotah and his family have totally embraced this dream.

“My family and I would like me to dance on Broadway someday,” he says.

Education and Training

Of course, this is easier said than accomplished. Becoming a professional dancer is a lifelong commitment. Training varies with the type of dance a performer is focusing on, but many believe that all dancers should have a strong foundation in classical technique before choosing a particular style.

While ballet training for girls usually begins between the ages of 5 and 8 with a private teacher through a independent ballet program like the one at Peabody, boys often begin a little later, usually between the ages of 10 and 15.

The fact that many boys make fun of other males who dance has not escaped Dakotah, but he says he’s willing to pay the price. “There are certain consequences when you go into dancing,” says Dakotah. “But dancing makes me happy and my family is proud of me.”


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