A Brief History

Dancing in the Streets Arizona (DITSAZ) is both a well-appointed ballet studio and a laboratory for success. DITSAZ was founded in 2008 by husband and wife team Soleste Lupu and Joseph Rodgers, who met in ballet school in Tucson, and with a modest sum of money received in celebration of their wedding. The DITSAZ studio is located in South Tucson, a one-square mile city surrounded by the City of Tucson that maintains a strong cultural heritage, but struggles with high crime rates and poverty. The mission of DITSAZ is to use the power of dance to transform lives using the excitement and discipline of ballet to guide children in developing positive life skills; and to break down cultural barriers and enrich the community’s artistic experience.

The students take classes and perform in professional settings regardless of their income level, physical shape/size, or skill level. DITSAZ has served children with incarcerated parents, victims of abuse, those with serious physical and developmental disabilities, as well as non-traditional ballet students, such as overweight children or those with other physical limitations. Thirty-seven of our students were referred by the Juvenile Court to complete community service, many of whom continued on as students after their terms of service were completed. Regardless of background or how they became involved, these students have discovered they can do more than they ever thought—not just across the dance floor, but in the classroom, in their family, and in their community. DITSAZ has demonstrated that dance education provides at-risk youth, and all students, a vehicle to experience positive teamwork and discipline, develop friendships that challenge cultural barriers, and most, important, experience accomplishments that serve to broaden their sense of life possibilities. No one is ever turned away if they want to learn.

This year alone Dancing in the Streets AZ (DITSAZ) has provided lessons to more than 200 low-income and at-risk students. Students enroll for classes each session. DITSAZ offers two enrollment periods each year in the Fall/winter (August-December) and Winter/Spring (January-June), with classes Mondays through Thursdays in late afternoon and evenings, and all day on Saturday. Since 2009, DITSAZ has had more than 3,000 “enrollments” comprising of individual students from more than 123 families. Each session students fill out registration forms, that includes demographic boxes to check, there is a manual tabulation for each session to count the number of students and demographics enrolled in each session. Our student demographics overall are 50% Hispanic/Latino, 20% native American mix, 5% Asian Mix, 5% African American mix, 20% Caucasian. Our students range in age from Three years-of age to adulthood. The vast majority of students complete an entire “term” of classes: most of whom enroll in classes again in the following years. More than 50% or our students are either on full scholarship or partial scholarship. We also provide dance attire for students that can not afford supplies. Our studio is located in South Tucson, a one-square mile city surrounded by the city of Tucson. In the 2010 census, the total population of of South Tucson was 5,490. Approximately 43.5% of families live below the poverty line, including 61.2% of those under age 18. Our students participate in two major productions each year as well as community performances, such as The Nutcracker in December and our spring production April 2017 was Cinderella. We have designed these productions to include all current students in order to give every student a performance experience; performances are scheduled in community venues and we sell tickets to help support our program.

Through costumed, lighted performances of two full-length ballets each year accompanied by live orchestra music before audiences of 300-500 and through more than 30 smaller community performances on make-shift stages in church halls and parks, students experience the gratification of achievement. Their families, many of whom have never seen or heard a live ballet or live orchestra, have been inspired to participate in and take ownership of their human legacy of artistic expression through dance.

In addition to the many students who are finding new ways to succeed in school and in life, several students are finding success as dancers. Six of our students, four girls and two boys, auditioned for and were accepted into the prestigious Summer Intensive Program at the State Street Ballet school in Santa Barbara, California—two on a full tuition scholarship. One of the male dancers has performed as a professional with State Street Ballet in Santa Barbara, CA.  Dancing in the Streets Arizona is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. It needs your financial support to continue this work. With tuition and grant income going to provide scholarships, performance related expenses and rental for the studio, the cofounders have worked with limited compensation, filling every role from dance instructors to cleaning crew. The Dancing in the Streets Arizona staff, teachers, and Board are wonderful, talented people who volunteer their time and expertise to insure a quality program.

We would appreciate your support to help these students learn the joy of dance and life skills that will serve them throughout their lives.

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