School of Dance

The inaugural School of Dance Scholarship Benefit on Feb. 16 hopes to raise $100,000 to support student success and they are bringing in several special guests for the occasion. 

The event will feature performances by local and internationally recognized dancers such as Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, tap sensation Maurice Chestnut, local company Ballet Tucson, and our very own School of Dance Ensemble.

The night’s highlight will surely be the special guest speaker Misty Copeland, the first African American woman to be promoted to principal dancer with the prestigious American Ballet Theatre. 

Misty Copeland

Misty Copeland made a name for herself as the first African American Principal dancer in the American Ballet Theatre (ABT). But her journey isn’t that of a typical professional ballerina. Beginning her ballet training at the age of 13, Copeland was a prodigy, climbing through the ranks of ABT swiftly after joining the company in 2000. She premiered roles such as “Firebird” created on her in 2012 with new choreography by choreographer Alexei Ratmansk and was the black woman to perform the lead role of “Odette/Odile” in American Ballet Theatre’s Swan Lake in 2014. 

She has been featured on numerous television programs and in publications such as 60 Minutes, the Today Show, Vogue, and People Magazine, among others. She co-wrote a New York Times best-selling memoir “Life in Motion,” with award-winning illustrator and author Charisse Jones, published in March 2014. 

In 2014, Misty was appointed to the President’s Council by former President Barack Obama on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition, and the same year received an honorary doctorate from the University of Hartford for helping diversify the art form of classical ballet. 

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago is a contemporary dance company based in Chicago. The company’s mission is “to awaken the human spirit through contemporary dance.” 

As one of the most original forces of contemporary dance for over 47 years with a constantly evolving repertory, Hubbard collaborate with the top choreographers of today to perform original and restaged works all over the country and the world. 

Hubbard’s reach goes beyond the world of concert dance. As a part of their vision to build a “dance landscape that is relevant and accessible to all,” they host education programs in classrooms across Chicago, utilizing the choreographic process to teach students about creativity, collaboration, and problem-solving– “ensuring that everyone has access to world-class dance and instruction.”

“Hubbard Street Dance Chicago ought to bottle itself as a cure for the ills of the era,”  said The New York Times. They are entering their 46th season under the direction of former company dancer Linda-Denise Fisher-Harrell, the fourth Artistic Director of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago.

Maurice Chestnut

A New Jersey native, Maurice Chestnut got his start at age five with Pepsi Bethel jazz dancer Alfred Gallman. Passionate about hard-hitting tap rhythms, Chestnut became a professional dancer at the age of nine when he joined Deborah Mitchell’s New Jersey Tap Ensemble. From there his rise to fame was swift, being featured in the “My Kid’s A Start” segment on the Sally Jesse Raphael Show. On that show, Chestnut declared that he loved to dance so much that he would keep doing it “until I die.” He was also a gold medalist in the NAACP Act-So competition as an ITA (International Tap Association) Japan Representative.

When he was only 14,  the Newark Star-Ledger named him “one of the twenty New Jersey faces to watch for in the new millennium.” At 19, he joined the national touring company of Savion Glover’s Broadway hit “Bring In ‘Da Noise, Bring In ‘Da Funk.” He continued working with Glover, performing in Classical Savion, Tappin’ Into Monk, and Invitation to the Dancer, as well as working as a member of Glover’s Improvography and Bare Soundz tours. 

Chestnut is best known for “playing tap” as a “live instrument,” blending complex tap dance steps with musical notes, creating a seamless ‘playful’ relationship between tapper and beat, that has resonated with audiences all around the world. 

Ballet Tucson

Founded in 1986 by Mary Beth Cabana, Ballet Tucson set out to become a world-class professional ballet company and school in Southern Arizona. The company annually performs five unique concerts, both classic ballets and innovative new works by acclaimed choreographers. The company, featuring dancers from around the world, is under the direction of Artistic Director Margaret Mullin, a Tucson native, and Associate Artistic Director and Resident Choreographer Chieko Imada. 

The School of Ballet Tucson allows students of all ages to receive high-caliber training while developing a love for dance and a passion for self-expression through movement. Ballet Tucson is committed to creating community in the arts via outreach initiatives like free pop-up performances, arts education outreach at local schools, and the Ballet Banter lecture series. 

The company also partners with local cultural and artistic organizations to provide enriching artistic experiences, such as their annual performance of The Nutcracker with accompaniment by the Tucson Symphony Orchestra. 

Header image by Jerry Metellus featuring UArizona School of Dance Ensemble.