By Tracey Edwards
City Ballet of Los Angeles is committed to bringing classic dance to everyone, regardless of economic or social surroundings. Robyn Gardenhire, artistic director of the dance company, has partnered with Crenshaw Yoga to bring ballet to South Los Angeles communities.
Many children who grow up participating in ballet start as early as three years old, and they receive a number of benefits, both physical and mental. Many studies have shown that ballet can shape a child into a more well rounded person by exposing them to a form of performing arts and teaching them discipline.
The classes at Crenshaw Yoga are for children ages 3-5 years old, with the goal of leading those children to City Ballet of Los Angeles’ dance studio in downtown Los Angeles when they get older. While some of the students go on to have professional dance careers, the goal of the program is to help children become successful in other aspects of life as well.
“You never know if they are going to become a dancer or not, and that’s really not the idea when they first start,” Gardenhire said. “The idea is to keep them motivated and busy, and build confidence in themselves. At some point you might see that there is a possibility, or a spark in them that they could become a professional dancer.”
Gardenhire began dancing at a small school in Compton when she was a child. While she went on to have a successful dance career, she said that many of the children that she trained with went on to become doctors, lawyers, and professionals in other industries. She pointed out that there are aspects of ballet training that cross over into academics.
“I think that dance really makes a person look at themselves in a more confident way,” she said. “I think in school, you have to be very confident and diligent, just like in a ballet class.”
Crenshaw Yoga and Dance owner Kar Lee Young has seen the benefits of ballet first hand, as her daughter took classes as a child.
“She enjoyed it, and it made her very focused,” Young said. “She’s a very successful young lady now. She graduated from UCLA. So I think it’s important for children to have something to sculpt them. This helps children with math, and also discipline. It makes them feel good about themselves.”
Gardenhire is a View Park resident, making it special for her to bring this performing art to her own community, and Young has created an environment for children and adults to thrive in both yoga and dance.
“I’m happy that we are able to do this together,” Young said. “Because I have the facility, and she has the talent and the curriculum for the children.”
For the children who move on to train at the City Ballet of Los Angeles, Gardenhire said that there are scholarship opportunities. These are the type of scholarships that greatly helped her become a professional dancer.
Crenshaw Yoga and Dance has a wide range of dance classes for children and adults. Zumba, ballroom dance, line dance, rhythmic strength dance, and creative dance are some of the featured classes.
“It’s all physical fitness,” Young said. “We teach children and adults to lead a healthy lifestyle.”