Ballet Etudes has two missions: Our first is to provide youth dancers an opportunity to perform in dance. Our annual Nutcracker is local to Huntington Beach, and provides those dancers the opportunity to grow their character through the discipline and beauty of dance.
Our second mission, and this story, is related to our other mission –to help be a part of the community in which we belong. The following is excerpted from our newsletter to our patrons from December 2019.
As I watched the final bows Sunday,it seemed to me that Ballet Etudes’Nutcracker is special. Our dancers perform this show every year, but it always seems fresh and fun(and I’ve been seeing it for 15 years). That is because it takes an entire community of us to make this happen. Each person contributes in some way.
From that thought I wanted to talk about our community here in Huntington Beach. It seems that now, more than ever, our local communities in Orange County are pressed with growing problems. There are immediate needs for housing, safety and food, and many organizations are trying to help in this immediate need.
However, we also need to provide hope, education and beauty to those in need. The soul cannot grow if the mind is not fed. Kids will not get this from snap-face or insta-twit; those avenues are really just aimed at marketing us with new gizmos to buy.
I wanted to use this newsletter to remind us all of how our little company gives back –how you give back-to those who need, in ways that are unexpected. I have talked about our outreach before, but this year I have been more directly involved, and it has given me some food for thought.
Let’s talk about the Nutcracker Outreach first, where we provide tickets to local families free of charge. I have written about my experiences with these families before, and you’re welcome to contact me for those stories. When you go to the shows, you may notice that 400 tickets have been given away to local families. This year, we’ve given tickets to many deserving groups from around Orange County.
I do not say this to tout our generosity, but instead to emphasize that these groups are doing good work within our community. I cannot tell you how meaningful it has been to watch these kids and their parents come into our shows and leave in awe of what our dancers do. I’ll encourage you to engage with the families at the show, so that you can experience that joy and make new friends.
Now that I’m in the front of the house,I get to do just that -engage with all the families who come to our show. I find that each year, some child does something unexpected that is very special. This year it came from a young teenage girl and her family who drove from San Bernardino to see our show as guests.
During the Saturday afternoon intermission, I was milling about and the family beckoned me. This young girl unfolded a $5 bill and said that they gave her too much at the concessions. She asked me to return it. Our merchandising folks provided me a small ornament to give her to thank her for her honesty. That honesty was food for the soul –someone with little gave us so much.
I have been blessed to see first-hand how much these programs mean to families and children. Our Nutcracker comes on the heels of the Outreach Class Demos for this fall. I cannot believe that a one-time class for Oak View has now turned into 3 sessions (fall winter and spring) with a total of 14 classes of 15 kids. That’s 210 children who get to experience Tap or Hip Hop (or both!) over the course of this year alone (plus they get a snazzy t-shirt!)
Your participation in the Ballet Etudes program makes that possible, as does a grant that we receive. But this does not happen without our instructors who teach all of these children and bond with them. Whenever I go to the class demos, I see how much fun the kids have and how much they enjoy learning from our teachers.
I also want to remember our friends at the Friends of the Children’s Library and the benefit shows we do to raise money for the Huntington Beach Children’s Library. Beyond being our partner, where they support our programs and our shows benefit the Library, they do so much for the children’s education in our community. That includes programs at the schools and branch libraries that serve our community. I encourage you to become a member of the Friends, and to help them in their programs.
I look back on this newsletter; it is long and rambling. But I hope that I made a point. I am a fortunate man. I believe that my good fortune comes with the responsibility to try to be just a bit better this year than I was the last year, and the last year before that. I owe that to my family, to you, and to the community in which I live.
I write this newsletter with the hopes that I can encourage you to give back to your community in whatever way suits you (Santa Suits are acceptable). Be part of the theater, be part of a community group, be part of libraries and education, help those that need your help.
The Soul of our community will grow, if we nourish it.
I consider kindness and compassion to be the best gift of all during this Giving Season. My best wishes to all of you during this holiday season
Since December, our community and the entire world has been stopped cold. There seems little to be said that is uplifting. Ballet Etudes show for May, to benefit the Friends, is cancelled. Our dancers will not finish Swan Lake. Out Outreach Classes have been cancelled as well.And our partners, the Friends of the Children’s Library, could not have their glorious Taste of Huntington Beach, which raises so much for the children at the library.
Yet, as I think about all of these bad things, I also have been working with the staff of Ballet Etudes and I still see many things to be grateful for. The board struggled with the closing of the season, even when all was a forgone conclusion. They did right by our families and by our instructors. Our partners at the Friends are encouraging us to continue, and our outreach classes for next fall are now planned for.
We, like all of you, will return.
(Oak View Tap)
(Lake View Hip Hop)