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Ballet Program For At-Risk Students Expands Space, Offering

Dance—The Next Generation will now be able to offer its free program for at-risk students through their high school graduation.

A free Sarasota Ballet program for low income students is now in a larger space that is allowing it to expand its offeirngs.

The program, Dance—The Next Generation, takes selected students from Sarasota County Title I Schools, which typically have a large population in poverty, and offers them free dance programs.

The DNG program was formally located in the Florida State University Center for the Performing Arts, but moved into a 6,000-square-foot building at 500 Tallevast Road. The Sarasota Ballet remains at the FSU Center.

“This program helps students realize their full potential both in the world of dance and in education. Having the additional room will allow us to support the kids in the program more effectively,” said Lisa Townsend, director of Dance The Next Generation.

The building features three spacious dance studios, classrooms and administration office to accommodate the 116 students in the Next Generation program.  

The expanded space means an expanded program, now offering the program to studetns from grade three through their high school graduation intead of through ninth grade, thanks to a private donor providing a "generous mulit-year" gift. 

The group hopes that it can regain its top stature and wants to win an award from the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards. The program received an award from the organization when the award was known as the Coming Up Taller Award. 

“The generosity of individuals and of our foundations has just been outstanding,” said Iain Webb, director of The Sarasota Ballet. “It has propelled us to the level we are at today and will allow us to augment the program and support the children of Sarasota County for years to come. We’re so thankful.”

The 21-year-old program has students practicing two to three times a week and have leotards, shoes, snacks and transporation from school provided for the students. The students also receive tutoring during the nine-month program and finish off their classes with a live performance for the public.  

“The DNG program is transformative. It truly makes a difference one child at a time,” said Mary Anne Servian, Managing Director for The Sarasota Ballet.

This version corrects Sarasota Ballet's location.

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