At the NORDC/NOBA Center for Dance, there are no prerequisites—except for an interest in moving. The collaboration between the New Orleans Recreation Development Commission and the New Orleans Ballet Association provides free dance programming to local residents, and it has grown since its inception in 1992 to cover three parishes, 11 satellite locations and over 400 students/semester ranging from ages 6 to 80-plus.
“We want to level the playing field—it’s all about accessibility,” says Jenny Hamilton, executive director of NOBA. While the original goal was to offer classes to school-age children, Hamilton stresses the need for senior citizen outreach since Hurricane Katrina.
NORDC/NOBA’s mission lends itself to an array of technical abilities. Students are split into two divisions: open, which is filled on a first-come, first-served basis, and pre-professional, with admittance by audition. While open track stick to a ballet, tap, modern and character curriculum, pre-professional students take additional classes in improvisation and other styles and can learn repertoire from professional choreographers (students will work with Ballet Hispanico faculty this summer).
On May 22, participants will come together in a free performance at Tulane University’s Dixon Hall. While the concert is able to name notable guest artists and successful alums who have moved on to prestigious college programs and professional companies, its main goal is to expose a community to the benefits of dance—working with others, building relationships and developing a sense of respect and discipline.
“A young student said at a previous performance, ‘It’s about celebrating each person and their individual talents—there are no boundaries when it comes to that artform onstage,’” says Hamilton. “And I think a child making a connection like that is incredible.”
Photo: Teaching artist Aline de Souza (by Jeff Strout, courtesy of NOBA)