by Joyce Kyles
Attendees witnessed a future Misty Copeland, Ashley Murphy or Ebony Williams over the Memorial Day weekend as they experienced a magical twist on the broadway classic “Annie” at the Ballet on Wheels Dance School and Company’s End of Year Dance Recital.
“All in the name of dance,” said Chauniece R. Thompson, executive artistic director of Ballet on Wheels (BOW).
Annie: The “Dance-sical” provided a unique blend of several genres of movement. Classical ballet, modern dance, jazz and boys hip hop were all represented as an effervescent movement of young dancers stole hearts and delighted audiences with multiple performances.
“It’s a twist on the movie and broadway play, but it’s all in the name of dance, which I think makes it a little different,” Thompson said. “We’re trying to portray the story of Orphan Annie, the mean old Miss Hannigan and the stories of the orphans, which are our younger youth dancers, and just being able to bring that story to life on the stage.”
The native Memphian and accomplished dancer is using the arts to help shape the lives of students and provide stories of lessons to be used long after they graduate from program.
“We’re here for those lessons. We’re here for the light bulb moments,” Thompson said.
Pride beams from Thompson as she shared the story of Kaiah Warr, a former student who graduated, moved away and has since returned to work with the dance company.
“She’s a powerhouse who’s able to relate to the students and teaching them choreography.” Thompson said. “It’s very refreshing. She choreographed three or four pieces for ‘Annie,’ so it’s extra special seeing her work on stage. That’s what makes me smile.”
Ballet on Wheels Dance School and Company is Memphis’ only non-profit, pre-professional, community-based classical ballet school and youth dance company. It offers scholarships and financial assistance so that “students are able to dance and the parents are not having to worry about the financial side, if that is an obstacle.”
Thompson said, “We teach dance, but we teach so much more about life and we’re very serious about that. We’re proud of the processes we take to ensure they’re responsible in dance, at school, in their homes, communities and extracurricular activities.”