Children take dance lessons no matter what they can pay

(WBIR-Knoxville) Young ballerinas point their toes and twirl and thoroughly enjoy dancing.

"I like dancing because it helped me improve on my strength and my flexibility and it's a great thing to do," Arianna Morales said.

The nine year old said she wants to be a dancer when she grows up and she knows what it will take to succeed.

"You've got to practice and work hard," she said.

Those are the lessons she's learning through the Knoxville Dance Project.

"They are learning to dance and they are learning a craft but they're also evolving into people they were meant to be," Jesie Browning said.

Jesie Browning started the non-profit Knoxville Dance Project about three and a half years ago.

"I saw that there was a need for children from all financial backgrounds to be able to take dance lessons. Being involved in art and I grew up dancing so I founded it," she explained.

At first Jesie was the only teacher but she's added two more teachers to the team. The Knoxville Dance Project started with three classes and 35 students. Now they offer three times as many classes for twice as many dancers.

Jennifer Blessing said, "You just see that moment whenever there's a light bulb and a click and they get a step or they finally remember the dance or whatever it is and then you can just see it in their face and how excited they are especially at the end when they get to perform for their family."

Jennifer Blessing teaches ballet and contemporary classes in the studio at Cumberland Estates Recreation Center in West Knoxville.

"I always hope that kids leave my class feeling really valued and like they are loved in addition to having learned dance technique," she said.

The web address captures the mission of the Knoxville Dance Project: Dance at Any Cost.

"We give kids the opportunity to dance at any cost and so we have lots of different backgrounds and demographics in this group so it's just a really fun place for them to get to come and move and dance," she said.

There's a suggested monthly tuition of $35 but families decide what they can afford. Fund raisers help the non-profit continue its mission to not only teach dance but also inspire creativity and confidence.

Jesie Browning said, "The things on the inside come out and you watch them meet friends and accomplish a goal and learn a step and so it is just so amazing to watch them grow, really, that's where the satisfaction comes from."

The dance classes are scheduled Monday through Thursday evenings.


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