United Voice: OKC Ballet Develops The Next Generation Of Dancers Through Project Plie

Tuesday, June 11th 2019, 5:21 pm
By: News 9

A weekly dance class is breaking down barriers for underserved kids in the city. The Oklahoma City Ballet is teaming up with the Boys and Girls Club to find the community's next stars. 

In a small room at the Memorial Park Boys and Girls Club, a few special girls learned from a professional. Walker Martin was there for the Project Plie master class, for the dancers who have demonstrated an aptitude for moves, like 7-year-old Mayte Zamudio.

“We can know more and more movements than we do and not forget,” Mayte said.

LaRissa Conn, who works with the students every day, said the opportunity is invaluable to them.

“Some have five siblings. Some have none,” Conn said, “so everybody is coming from a different show, and they’re all getting a chance to get an exposure that they wouldn’t normally have through Project Plie.”

The idea came from the brain of ballerina Misty Copeland, who was once a Boys and Girls Club kid herself.

“She’s a principal dancer at the American Ballet Theater,” Martin explained to the girls in the class.

The class allows OKC Ballet to scout out new talent and offer scholarships to train the best and brightest of the ballerinas. Conn says the benefits go beyond new dance skills, though.

“I’ve seen confidence grow,” said Conn. “Kids that wouldn’t look anybody in the eye before will walk with their heads up, not only because of ballet posture, but because they are less afraid.”

The girls go on to perform all across town at places like the Civic Center and OCCC.

Conn added, “I’m watching them kind of grow into who they are, and even if it’s not something that’s going to define them forever as a dancer, it’s defining this work ethic. It’s defining this dedication and commitment.”

Girls like Mayte now feel that they, too, can be the principal dancer in their own lives one day, just like Misty. To learn more about Project Plie, click here.

Editor’s Note: News 9 is part of a local initiative that brings all of our local media outlets together to give Oklahoma a United Voice in promoting a healthy dialogue on race. To see more stories, visit UnitedVoiceOK.org.