Inner City Nutcracker Keeps Fine Arts Alive for Houston’s Kids

Jo-Carolyn Goode | 11/15/2018, 8:06 p.m.
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The program had such an effect on the Piper and Simpson-Hamlet that to this day (and both are in their thirties) they are still involved on the advisory board. “I continue to serve on the advisory board because I believe in the mission. Our inner city schools don’t have the resources (nor the financial and personnel) to give students access to experiences like this.” Piper continued, “ And we can. We can change a child’s worldview, outlook, self confidence.”

After several auditions, sixty kids are chosen to go through eight weeks of rehearsals, learn the choreography of ballet legend Frederic Franklin, get fitted for intricacy costumes, and then perform on the stage of the Miller Outdoor Theatre all under the artistic direction of Mary Beth Arrington and Luis Fuente with the City Ballet of Houston.

Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. - Alpha Kappa Omega Chapter donates $1,509.00 to the Inner City Nutcracker

Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. - Alpha Kappa Omega Chapter donates $1,509.00 to the Inner City Nutcracker

According to the City of Houston Ballet, the project gives the company the opportunity to be connected to the community in the following ways:

1) individuals, adult, and children, are involved in the planning and performance; 2) the project is marketed to the entire Houston community, at no charge; 3) the docents are neighborhood oriented, taking place in parks and recreation sites; 4) CBH brings dancers directly to the underserved youth, by presenting in schools and at community parks; 5) selected children have the opportunity to continue training with CBH on full scholarship.

For the 2018 year, the ICN partnered with Bastian, Blackshear, Gregory Lincoln, and Crespo Elementary Schools to host the live auditions. Kids only needed to apply and audition without having had previous dance experience. Kids were selected based on the ability to learn steps, not the actual execution of it; whether they could perform before an audience, and their behavior at the audition.

Beyond the sixty kids performing, 1,700 other Houston ISD from Title I schools were given the dual opportunity to cheer on their classmates but also see them on stage giving them a fine arts experience as well. A second evening performance is free and open to the public.

This project is extremely important to the city of Houston for the many benefits children receive as a result of having this fine arts education. Board members and volunteers look forward to working with the kids annually. They work tirelessly to secure donations to put on the grand production that costs approximately $50,000, which averages to $800 per child.

Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. - Alpha Kappa Omega Chapter members with some of the kids in the Inner City Nutcracker

Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. - Alpha Kappa Omega Chapter members with some of the kids in the Inner City Nutcracker

A longtime sponsor has been the Houston Parks and Recreation Department. Miller Outdoor Theatre also lends their support providing the venue since their constant goal is to provide cultural enrichment to reflect the diversity of Houston at no cost. ICN happily welcomed a new sponsor this year, the ladies of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated – Alpha Kappa Omega Chapter. The oldest and largest graduate chapter in Houston, TX were thrilled to join this undertaking as one of their first major initiatives of the Exemplifying Excellence Through Sustainable Service platform for new International President Dr. Glenda Baskins Glover, who has encouraged members to focus on the fine arts. On the local chapter level, where Marsha Penn is the president and Eugenia Cain is the Fine Arts Committee Chairman, members assisted at all auditions, helped with the dress rehearsal, and volunteered backstage for the two live performances. The culminating activity of their support was a sizable monetary donation at the final show. ICN ties in perfectly with AKA’s mission to better the family as well since some of the program participants have received scholarships to continue their dance education to become academic and artistic dancers and ultimately role models for generations to follow.

If it moves your heart to give so freely to this worthy program that impacts our city in so many ways, contact the City of Houston Ballet info@cityballetofhouston.com and/or call 346-701-7275.