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L.A. ballet school serves underprivileged

March 3, 2009 5:15:00 AM PST
Four years ago, Emmanuel Reyes wanted to be more athletic for his P.E. class, so he started training with the City of Angels Ballet. Now, it's about to become about something else for the sixth grader."The past year, we went to the music center, and we danced with professional dancers, and I liked it, so I want to keep going on," Reyes said.

Three times a week, Reyes' mom walks the kids several blocks to the Silver Lake studio, then works on her knitting while she waits.

"We have some families that take buses, and they come for over an hour on the bus," said Mario Nugara, found of City of Angels Ballet.

There wouldn't be a ballet class to get to if it hadn't been for Nugara. The program is now in its 16th year.

"I recognized that Los Angeles didn't have a ballet academy for children that were coming from under-served communities, where they'd have a scholarship program, and they would go in and just get professional ballet training, and give them an opportunity to become a professional ballet dancer," Nugara said.

There are currently about 100 young dancers taking one of three classes Monday through Friday.

The ballet school is more than an after school program, where they learn how to plie or pas de bourree. They learn about discipline and self respect.

"There are rules for everybody to follow. No gum. No nail polish. No jewelry, and the children all respond," Nugara said.

"The schools tell me they can pick out the children that are in my ballet program because of the way they interact with each other, the respect they show to each other, to their teachers, their focus in class, and even in their homework," he said.

Nugara said his secret to getting the students to respect him is to respect them first.

Get more information from the City of Angels Ballet Web site


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