Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

For Hillsborough students, Patel Conservatory dance outreach program makes all the difference

TAMPA

Young ladies have been jumping into young men's arms for years.

And for years, the Patel Conservatory at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center has been sending dance instructors like Susan Downey into the public schools in hopes of making the arts matter to a new generation.

Still, there's always a moment in the dance — the girl leaps, the boy braces — when you're not sure if it's going to work out.

At a recent rehearsal at Philip Shore Elementary Magnet School, Downey urged a group of fifth-graders to commit themselves.

"You fight it, you get dropped," she told the girls after one shaky jump. "It's all about trust."

The class has been rehearsing for weeks to prepare for a performance Thursday at the conservatory's TECO Theater. They'll be doing real partner dances for the Broadway Outreach Project, along with students from Muller Elementary and Walton Academy for the Performing Arts.

Several large-scale studies have shown that students involved in the arts tend to get better grades and higher test scores, according to the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies.

But the Philip Shore students say it's tougher than it looks.

"I got dropped like seven times," marveled Olivia Marrero, 9. "I've got bruises and stuff. I've learned to fall so I don't hurt myself so much."

Some of the boys said they're still aiming for careers in pro football. But for others, the dance class has opened up new possibilities.

Dontae Stewart, 10, said he could imagine becoming a professional dancer.

"The part I like most is the pickup," he said. "When you pick up your partner and spin around and hold it. It just tells me that I'm strong."

Brains get a workout, too. Bryant Jackson, 11, said dancing has helped him to focus on his schoolwork. Students have to miss some of their regular classes to attend practice, so they have to get more efficient, he said.

"I think they have really embraced that responsibility," said teacher Emily Marrero. "They're proud of it."

Wendy Leigh, vice president of education at the conservatory, said the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center has transformed plenty of lives during its 22 years of outreach to the public schools.

But in tight times, economic backers are asking tougher questions about how the arts help kids. So this year, the conservatory will try to quantify the joy, the improvement in grades, the lives turned around.

"They say, 'Show me, how many?' " Leigh said. "We're actually going to start measuring that this year."

Downey was lavish with her praise at the rehearsal, but she didn't cut her dancers any breaks. She talked to them like adults, pointing out rough spots in the choreography and telling them to think for themselves.

"Wait for the music change, right?" she instructed during one of those hard parts. "Use your ears, not your count, on this."

Then it was time for the final leap of the day.

"Okay, give me 10," she shouted, as half a dozen girls made their jump. "Hold it!"

Bryant Jackson's 11-year-old knees quivered for a moment under the weight of his taller partner, 10-year-old Kristin Fair.

But the knees held solid.

Tom Marshall can be reached at tmarshall@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3400.

For Hillsborough students, Patel Conservatory dance outreach program makes all the difference 10/16/09 [Last modified: Saturday, October 17, 2009 12:12am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Florida reverses decision to shield information from nursing home inspection reports

    Health

    TALLAHASSEE — Florida regulators decided Friday they will abandon the use of software that allowed them to heavily redact key words from nursing home inspection reports posted online, choosing instead to link to the more complete reports available on a federal site.

    Officials for the state Agency for Health Care Administration said Friday they will no longer use software that allowed them to heavily redact key words from nursing home inspection reports posted online. The agency has been under increased scrutiny since Sept. 13, when eight residents of The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, pictured here, died after power was lost to an air-conditioning system during Hurricane Irma. Two more residents died this week. [South Florida Sun-Sentinel]
  2. Trump's travel ban to be replaced by restrictions tailored to certain countries

    Nation

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's ban on travelers from six majority-Muslim countries is set to be replaced as soon as this weekend with more targeted restrictions on visits to the United States that would vary by country, officials familiar with the plans told the New York Times on Friday.

  3. Maria: Clearwater Coast Guard plane aids rescue near Puerto Rico

    Military

    Eight minutes. That's how long it took the Petty Officer 3rd Class Darryn Manley of the Coast Guard said it took him to spot the boat that capsized off a Puerto Rican island on Thursday.

  4. Mom of girl who died looking for candy seeks to keep husband away

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — Eight days after her 4-year-old daughter died in the care of paternal grandparents, pregnant Lizette Hernandez sat in a Hillsborough County courthouse Friday, attempting to seek full-time custody of her 19-month-old son.

    Lizette Hernandez, 22, above, completes paperwork Friday for a motion for protection from domestic violence against her husband, Shane Zoller. Their daughter, Yanelly, 4, left, died in a gun accident at the home of Zoller’s parents.
  5. New owners take over downtown St. Petersburg's Hofbräuhaus

    Retail

    ST. PETERSBURG — The downtown German beer-hall Hofbräuhaus St. Petersburg has been bought by a partnership led by former Checkers Drive-In Restaurants president Keith Sirois.

    The Hofbrauhaus, St. Petersburg, located in the former historic Tramor Cafeteria, St. Petersburg, is under new ownership.
[SCOTT KEELER  |  TIMES]