One of the longest running partnerships between public schools and the arts in New Jersey is located right here in New Brunswick.
DANCE POWER is a 20-week program run in the New Brunswick Public School system by the American Repertory Ballet's Princeton Ballet School.
DANCE POWER coordinator Kathleen Smith said the program, currently in its 28th year, takes place in third grade physical education classes throughout New Brunswick.
Kids learn the basics of stretching and ballet fundamentals, are given introductions to other dance forms and how to move on a stage. The program works up to choreography routines that culminates in a final performance.
According to the Princeton Ballet School, the program adheres to the state Core Curriculum Standards.
"Within the 20 weeks, hopefully they'll be coming out different students than they were when they first went in, and have an appreciation of dance," Smith said.
At the end of the 20-week period, two boys and two girls from each school are chosen to receive a full scholarship to study dance at the school, complete with shoes and a uniform. They may continue the scholarship from their fourth grade year for as long as they wish to study dance, through 12th grade, Smith said.
This past school year, 32 scholarships were awarded and 24 students accepted, Smith said.
"We actually have a student here, who she got her scholarship in the fourth grade, she went all the way through the 12th grade, and now she is a trainee in the company," Smith said.
Other DANCE POWER students have gone on to different companies. Smith herself is a lifetime New Brunswick resident who went through DANCE POWER while a young student at the school.
Smith said that the young students and sometimes their parents often have to wrap their heads around what the program is offering them.
"I had one mother come up to me with her broken English, and she said 'Thank you, thank you for this opportunity for my child," Smith said.
For more information on DANCE POWER, visit www.americanrepertoryballet.org/Access-and-Enrichment/DANCE-POWER.