Two students from Landon Middle School want to introduce ballet to children who normally don’t have access to the art form.
Year 7 pupil Ainsley Schimmel, 12, said the seed to start a beginners ballet class was planted around three years ago when she was dancing at home with friends. She said a friend of hers said she wanted to take ballet lessons but couldn’t afford to take lessons.
“At the time, she didn’t have running water in her house,” Ainsley recalls. “That’s why she was at my house. She had no electricity at the time.
Eighth-grade student Sierrah Kelly, 13, who has danced ballet with Ainsley for several years at Ballet Midwest, said the idea of a free ballet academy they held at Hillcrest Community Center last summer further rooted itself in a language arts class at Landon where they were encouraged to come up with a business idea and how they would execute it.
“It’s sad that some people can’t afford it,” Sierrah said of the ballet lessons and why they started their free academy. “Sometimes they can’t do extra activities like we can.”
Now Ainsley and Sierrah want to provide the same kind of opportunities for young people to learn ballet as part of their “Tippy Toe Ballet Academy”. While Topeka Unified School District 501 students will not be in school Friday due to a district professional development day, all students are welcome to come to Hillcrest from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 1800 SE 21st Street for a free lunch and a day of games to learn the basics of ballet.
“Ballet has a certain way of doing things in every class,” Ainsley said. “We’re going to split it up and do some combinations at the dance bar and do some combination-breaking games.”
Ainsley said she has been dancing ballet since she was 5 years old and said she has always enjoyed the challenges that ballet presents.
“I love that there’s really no stopping point,” she said. “You can always take one more turn or lift your leg a little higher. You can’t be really good at it and that’s it. I just love how hard it is because you’re always challenged.
Sierrah said she started ballet when she was 4 years old and loved the way she could express her feelings through dance.
“With every move you can do something new,” she said. “You can push yourself.”
The young women said they overcame challenges in other parts of their lives because of what ballet had taught them.
Sierrah said she learned to deal with the obstacles her math class sometimes presents.
“Because I’m in a group of big kids and it’s really hard,” she said. “I have to push myself until I can’t anymore, but I know I can.”
Ainsley said reading presented him with a challenge.
“I’m good at math, but reading is hard,” she said. “Ballet has a lot of math, so it always helps me because I love ballet.”
Ainsley and Sierrah said everyone is welcome to attend the Tippy Toe Ballet Academy on Friday, but they expect most children to attend will be aged preschool to 12 years old. For more information, email [email protected]
Contact the journalist Angela Deines at (785) 295-1143 or @AngelaDeines on Twitter.