Dancing in Streets, a non-profit dance studio located in South Tucson, will be performing The Nutcracker at the historic Fox Theatre this Saturday and Sunday. Joseph Rodgers, a professional dancer who grew up in the South Park neighborhood adjacent to South Tucson is co-artistic director of Dancing in the Streets. He says this is the fifth year his organization has staged a performance of the Nutcracker.
"We're here in South Tucson to teach classical ballet to kids, teens, and their parents."
Rodgers says dance provided him an opportunity to see beyond the bleak conditions of his old neighborhood. “There’s a lot of poverty, there’s a lot of drugs, gangs… you know, all that stuff,” he says. “My mother put me in Ballet to try to keep me out of trouble, but it really didn’t help.”
In spite of the challenges faced by a young black man, growing up in a community that is often defined by poverty and crime, Rodgers says he “kept up (dance.)” He went on to dance professionally in a career that gave him an opportunity to travel abroad. When he returned to Tucson he wanted to give kids in his old neighborhood the same exposure to ballet he had as a young person.
“I looked around and there wasn’t anything artistic –dance wise—for the kids,” says Rodgers. “I figured, ‘I needed to do something.’” Doing something, in Rodgers mind, meant creating a dance studio that could provide children an exposure to the benefits of dance. “We don’t turn away any student – if the student is passionate about dance we welcome them with open arms.”
Soleste Lupo, Rodger’s wife and co-artistic director of Dancing in Streets, says the Nutcracker performance is an important introduction to the arts for many children and their families. “Not only do we train the kids, we train the parents,” says Lupo. “I have a number of parents that have been with us since the first Nutcracker that I have trained as well.”
Mounting a production of the Nutcracker is no easy task for any professional dance group, much less a non-profit organization that exists solely on contributions from the community. Rodgers says the Dancing in the Streets performance scheduled for this weekend represents the hard work of the young dancers and their families.