Cary, NC- April Schweitzer founded her Graceful Expressions Dance studio ten years ago by offering classes first at Green Hope High School with 24 students. She celebrates her tenth year in business this summer having grown to over 250 students, who not only achieve in the dance world, but have dedicated themselves to serving others in the community.
Skills That Matter
The studio has based their philosophy, according to Schweizter on the tenant that “hard work and perseverance are the skills that matter in life. That its not how you look but that you should try to make a difference in life”. In that spirit, she tries to keep costumes and routines modest, and not revealing, more in keeping with the ages of her students. The reaction of parents has been favorable.
She believes that there is so much you can take from the dancer’s training that prepares a person for life. Good life habits, leadership can be learned right at the ballet barre.
Passed Their Goal
With that philosophy in mind, this year the studio started a ballet company, and she gave leadership roles to students within the company. April asked the students what goals they wanted to achieve during the coming year. They set a goal to celebrate their 10th anniversary by giving back $10,000 to the community. As of this Saturday’s Peter Pan performance, they will have surpassed that goal, by giving back $10,250. They did it through a multi-faceted approach to giving, with a child-centered focus.
What They Achieved
Schweitzer has a passion for helping children who are raised in challenging circumstances. A background in social work even as a teen has shaped much of her community outreach, and she helps as she knows she can, through the world of dance.
Much of the community work the studio has chosen to do, involves the dance students helping other children. In this way, they connect the work they do and how it can help others .
One of the teachers at the studio will travel to Kenya this summer on a mission to work with children in an orphanage. To help this mission the company choreographed a benefit performance which raised $900. Afterward, the students went shopping for items needed by the orphanage which will be taken their by their teacher.
The Carying Place
Graceful Expressions has been giving classes to children served by the Carying Place for several years. This year they hired a teacher, who is paid by Graceful Expressions to lead these classes, which are held at no cost to the students. Through these classes the studio has enrolled four scholarship students who attend regular Graceful Expressions classes at no cost. Not only are they taught at no cost, but they are given what they need to perform from shoes and leotards to performance costumes. In this way they can fully participate without the stigma of not being prepared.
Daddy Daughter Dances
The studio annually hosts two nights of Daddy-Daughter Dances. One of the night’s proceeds goes to help a family who has recently adopted a child to offset costs. They also offered free admission to the dance to families who had adopted children in the last few years.
Lastly, the studio will hold their annual essay contest to award $200 to three award winning student essays on the subject “How I can use dance to improve the world”. I think these students have been learning that the whole time they have been at Graceful Expressions.
It is not with one quick and easy service project that the studio accomplished this huge $10,000 goal. It is by doing little things every day of every month that they achieved a mountain of service work that serves many in this community and beyond.
Season Finale Recital
This Saturday, Graceful Expressions will perform 4 shows of the Peter Pan story at the Cary Arts Center as they celebrate their tenth anniversary. Each show will be slightly different, rotating in the different classes so that every student gets their chance to shine on the big stage.
April says dance “speaks so much to girls about and how they think about thier body image… It’s your work, your brains, your skills and hard work that matter. Not what you look like. This healthy concept is what April Schweitzer hopes she instill sin her students through their work at her dance studio. Go see for your self this Saturday.
Peter Pan, A Graceful Expressions Dance Studio recital
Cary Arts Center, 101 Dry Ave. Cary, NC
Coverage on Cary Citizen is sponsored in part by Waverly Farmers Market.