DanceChance: Expanding Access to Ballet

PNB DanceChance members enjoy a Pagliacci Pizza party.

Pagliacci has been a proud supporter of DanceChance for many years.

In 1994, Francia Russell, co-artistic director of Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB), created the DanceChance program because she knew that there were students in the Seattle community who possessed the talent to excel in ballet and that if given the opportunity, a new world of possibility could open for them.

Over the last 29 years, DanceChance has grown into a vibrant program that benefits roughly 1,400 students in over 20 Seattle public schools. Each fall, PNB teams visit the partner schools and provide interactive dance education presentations and movement experiences for every third-grade classroom. The experience is fun, engaging, and interesting for the students and teachers—and for most is the first fully inclusive, creative exposure to dance taught by professional ballet instructors.

The instructors observe each student’s movement, looking for those with the potential to excel in classical ballet training. Students at each school who demonstrate the right mix of flexibility, coordination, musicality, movement quality, focus, and interest are invited to study at Pacific Northwest Ballet School free of charge—transportation, attire, and shoes included—dependent only upon students’ potential and interest in dance. PNB’s renowned educators teach DanceChance classes, which are accompanied by professional dance musicians.

Not only does DanceChance reduce barriers, create access, and improve equity and diversity in classical ballet training, but it offers so much more to participants than learning to dance. Ballet training teaches and reinforces transferrable life skills, such as problem-solving, perseverance, teamwork, expressivity, spatial awareness, curiosity, and a strong sense of self.

Some students have gone on to become professional dancers. PNB currently has two company members who started in DanceChance: Kuu Sakuragi and Joh Morrill. PNB School’s newest faculty member, Eric Hipolito, had his first taste of ballet in DanceChance, subsequently training at PNB School and dancing professionally for PNB. Others have gone on to dance for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Oregon Ballet Theatre, San Francisco Ballet, and Singapore Ballet Theatre, among others.

At Pagliacci, we sponsor many community groups. DanceChance is one of our favorites. We’re proud of the joy and creativity the program brings to so many deserving students.

Publish Date: November 4, 2022