At the Ballet San Antonio gala winter luncheon on Monday, the nonprofit arts organization announced a new partnership with Haven For Hope to provide free dance classes for children of Haven residents, underwritten by NuStar Energy and The Greehey Family Foundation.
Molly Biglari, director of strategic relations for Haven For Hope, said the current population of 120 individuals and families includes 300 children experiencing homelessness, all of whom will be eligible for the Learning That Moves You program beginning in September. The classes will take place on the Haven For Hope campus.
“Haven tries, through these fabulous partnerships, to enrich the lives of the children,” Biglari said. “We know they’re going through a tough time, and we want to get them every resource available.”
The program will serve children kindergarten age through third grade, “which is a fantastic age to learn about creative movement and dance,” she said. “When children do programs like this, their success rates at school increase, they develop great study habits, and discipline. … It teaches you good habits and confidence.” Biglari said the program will include performances at Haven.
Ballet San Antonio CEO Evin Eubanks said the idea for the program originated with Carla Brozovich and Sonya Medina Williams, both enthusiastic supporters of the dance company and co-chairs of the winter luncheon.
During her comments to luncheon attendees, Williams said, “this partnership will not only provide a strong foundation for our community, but also illustrate that access to the arts does not discriminate and can play a vital role in healing and empowering children.”
Haven For Hope uses a “trauma-informed care” approach to helping its residents recover from the negative situations that led them to homelessness and to look toward sustainable futures.
Of Haven resident children, Biglari said, “many of them of course are facing trauma and their lives are being disrupted. So this gives them a chance to experience what we would all wish for our children, which is dance, performing arts, time for yourself, to get away from what’s going on and really take advantage of this fabulous opportunity to also just be a kid.”
NuStar executive Mary Rose Brown, a fervent Haven supporter, said, “We have all these programs on our campus for these kids, and it’s eye opening. And it really is transformative. We’re there to help the parents transform so they can live independent lives, but at the same time with these kinds of programs, we’re transforming the lives of the children and opening their eyes to all the possibilities that are out there.”
Ballet soloist Heather Celie Neff has taught dance lessons to children, and said “it gives them an emotional outlet that maybe they don’t have anywhere else.” Neff said she had difficulty speaking and expressing emotions when young, and found that dancing gave her a productive outlet.
“Honestly, I started tearing up when they announced this partnership because I think it’s so important that those children feel heard, and that they’re given an outlet to speak, even if it’s not necessarily talking. They are given an outlet to deal with the emotions they’re feeling,” Neff said.