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Posted on Sat, Mar. 05, 2005

Dancing for a good cause

Children’s ballet company entertains, raises funds for community service


News Columnist

The State Newspaper

Darienne Jackson has a sure-fast method for overcoming her nerves when she steps in front of an audience to perform.

“I just act like nobody is there. In my mind, all I see are the chairs.”

Wise words, indeed, for a 6-year-old, but then again she’s in some very good company.

The St. Andrews’ youngster is part of a larger group of area adolescents who have been putting their artistic talents to work for community service in recent weeks.

The Children’s Ballet Company of Columbia will perform “Fabulous Fairy Tales” at 3 p.m. today at Columbia College. The performance is one of several the nonprofit group is presenting to help raise funds for PETS Inc. That agency’s roof was badly damaged during the December ice storm, and organizers have been raising money to pay for the repairs.

“Yeah, they have a broken roof,” said Abigail Cann, also 6 and a member of the ballet group.

For ballet company directors, building that kind of awareness of community needs is just as important as teaching spins, jumps and turns to the young performers.

“That way, they become aware of the needs of others,” said Ina Fort, executive director of the Children’s Ballet. “They become very aware of tragedies and national disasters.”

The Children’s Ballet Company exists to introduce and expose youngsters to art through dance and drama, regardless of their performance, background or ability to pay.

“All they have to have is a love for dance,” Fort said. “We try to create performance opportunities for them. Everything we do is for children.”

As part of its regular tour, the company traditionally visits such places as schools, hospitals, nursing homes and other facilities that serve handicapped adults.

“We want the children to know other people are important, and sometimes less fortunate (than they are),” Fort said.

Past public performances by the group have benefited a local food pantry, but Fort said after the December storm the idea came to support PETS Inc.

“So many of the children have gotten animals from PETS Inc., so they have a hands-on experience there,” she said. “None of the children want to think about water coming in on the animals from a leaking roof.”

Earlier this week, the dancers got a warm-up to today’s performance during an appearance at St. Peter’s School in Columbia.

Amariah Jones, 5, who performs two dramatic readings in the production, was feeling no fear as she waited her turn to go on stage.

“I think the most fun part is when I do poems and stuff. I always practice when I get home.”

Today’s performance in Columbia College’s Cottingham Theater is in conjunction with the Drama Department at the Montessori Early Learning Center School of the Arts.

Tickets are $5 and are available at the door.

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