Although artistic forms of expression like art and dance have been proven critical for social-emotional development, many New York City public school students and people with cognitive and physical disabilities lack access to art curriculums or opportunities to engage with such programming. Over the last two years, due to COVID-19, it has become even more difficult for those in need to access the opportunities for development that arts education can provide.
To increase access to dance programs for public school students as well as customized workshops for persons with physical and cognitive disabilities, the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation provided a grant of $500,000 to New York City Ballet (NYCB).
NYCB is the largest dance company in the United States. In a typical season, NYCB gives over 160 performances, reaching an audience of nearly 320,000 people. The Company’s mission is to preserve the ballets of its co-founding choreographers George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins; to develop new work; and to make ballet accessible to the widest possible public through touring, education programs, the creative use of media, and other outreach efforts. NYCB’s educational and public programs serve roughly 20,000 people annually.
The Foundation’s grant supported two of NYCB’s educational programs: Access Programs and In-School Residency Programs.
NYCB’s Access Programs offer free customized movement workshops and hospital bedside visits to children, teens, and adults with physical and cognitive disabilities, including cerebral palsy, autism, Down syndrome, brain trauma, and joint diseases. Throughout the pandemic, NYCB’s education staff has worked closely with its Access program partners—which include 15+ hospitals, special education schools, and other organizations—to develop virtual live and pre-recorded workshops which are tailored to the participants’ needs. As these groups are not yet ready for in-person programming, NYCB continues to provide virtual programming and communicates regularly with its partners to determine when live programming can resume.
Meanwhile, NYCB’s In-School Residency Program offers dance programs to predominantly Title I NYC public schools for students in grades 1-5, providing an artistic outlet through structured movement workshops for children who may not otherwise have an opportunity to participate in arts programming. NYCB has received tremendous feedback from schools showing that students learn to better collaborate with their peers and hone their creativity through exposure to new art forms.
With the pandemic essentially shuttering all in-person workshops, NYCB quickly adjusted with innovative digital programming, including a combination of pre-recorded and live movement-based workshops. After an 18-month hiatus from in-person programming, the Company is thrilled to be back in schools this year.
Providing artistic programming to children and those with special needs is critical for social-emotional development. NYCB’s educational efforts support those most in need with innovative, engaging, and accessible outreach while fulfilling its mission of reaching the widest possible public.