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.

Dancing In The Streets AZ is a ballet organization dedicated to fostering creativity, cultural exchange, and community engagement through dance. Our mission is to promote and celebrate the transformative power of dance, providing accessible opportunities for artistic expression, education, and performance.

At the core of our organization’s work is the belief that dance has the ability to inspire, connect, and empower individuals and communities. We strive to create a vibrant and inclusive cultural environment where people from diverse backgrounds can come together to experience the joy and richness of dance. Our organization focuses on several key areas to fulfill our mission:

  • Performance: We curate and produce high-quality dance performances. These performances feature both professional dancers along side emerging artists, providing a platform for artistic expression and innovation, and an inspiration to our students.
  • Education: We offer dance education programs for people of all ages and skill levels. Our classes, workshops, and residencies are designed to provide accessible and inclusive opportunities for individuals to learn and explore various dance styles. We believe in the power of dance education to nurture creativity, develop physical fitness, and build self-confidence.
  • Community Engagement: We actively engage with the community by organizing events, festivals, and outreach programs that bring dance into public spaces and underserved areas. Through these initiatives, we aim to make dance accessible to a broader audience, promote cultural understanding, and foster community cohesion.
  • Collaboration: We value collaboration with other arts organizations, schools, community centers, and local artists. By working together, we aim to create synergistic partnerships that amplify our collective impact, promote cross-cultural exchange, and support the growth of the local dance community.

Through our diverse programming and initiatives, Dancing In The Streets AZ strives to enrich the cultural landscape of our region, inspire individuals to explore their artistic potential, and create meaningful connections within our community. We believe that by embracing the universal language of dance, we can promote empathy, celebrate diversity, and contribute to the overall well-being and vitality of our society.

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.

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 Tuesdays through Thursdays in late afternoon and evenings, and all day on Saturday. Since 2009, DITSAZ has had more than 6,000 “enrollments” comprising of individual students from more than 300 families. 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 five years-of age to adulthood. 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 a spring production. 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.