FYI | Cultures Find Common Ground in Dance

An NEA grant will support the Latin Ballet of Virginia’s outreach programs, which bring dance and literature to underserved and immigrant children.
Photo by Davey King

Dance teacher/performer Ana Ines King gained a new appreciation for the power of words and movement in the late ’90s when she and her 11-year-old daughter moved to Virginia from their native Colombia. Homesick and unable to adapt to the local culture, her daughter responded positively to a schoolteacher’s urging to write and dance about her feelings for her native land. “That’s when I came up with the idea of helping children new to the States,” said King, who in 1997 created the Latin Ballet of Virginia company and school, along with Be Proud of Yourself, a dance outreach program for underserved and English-as-a-second-language children and families.

Today the multiple outreach programs within Be Proud of Yourself reach about 20,000 children through lecture-demonstrations and workshops, and King’s staff works directly with about 800 children through 8- to 15-week residency programs. One such programEverybody Reads!received a $10,000 NEA Art Works grant this June.

Everybody Reads! activities range from residencies that guide public school students to re-create stories through dance to company performances of productions steeped in Latin culture such as NuYoRican, a dance theater work that tells the stories of Puerto Rican families who migrated to the U.S.

“When you dance or sing or do any art, you are proud of yourself,” King told Dance Studio Life. “And we need to continue our culture. It’s our identity, and if we don’t have our identity, we are not alive.”