Backstage with Sandy Kenyon: Diversity in ballet

NEW YORK (WABC) -- The American Ballet Theatre's Bridge Program is helping children of color make the most of their dreams to dance.

"We started the project primarily because we saw there was a big gap in bringing in and recruiting children of color," artistic director Cynthia Harvey said. "And then we realized it actually went through the whole of the institution."

To practice ballet at ABT's headquarters just north of Union Square in Manhattan is to build a bridge between an elite world and kids from from the community who yearn to learn how to dance.

"Our Bridge Program is a two-year program, and we're looking for children who are coordinated, who love to dance," Harvey said. "I look for something in their eyes, a bit of focus. You know, you can see it sometimes."

The idea is to discover ability and nurture talent.

"We just want people who know how to dance and who love to move," Harvey said.

Ten-year-old Catalina Espinoza is one of the students. Her mom, Grecia Matthews, is originally from Nicaragua.

"(This is) an opportunity for her to have opportunities that I didn't have growing up," Matthews said. "And it opens up doors to meet professional dancers and people in the industry, and for her to fine-tune her skills."

The chance to meet Misty Copeland is inspiring for young dancers, while management works hard to ensure Misty is not alone at the top in a classical art form that has been slow to change.

"There's many different kids, and they can be better than you, which makes you want to work harder to get to where they are," dancer Dannilynn King said.

King graduated from the class and was chosen to attend ABT's elite Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Ballet School.

"She actually started off at the Bridge Program, now she's in the school full time, which is three days a week," mom Linda King said. "She's getting the highest quality of ballet. Oh my God, so good. And I'm just so grateful."
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