Arts, Inclusion, & Diversity

Written by Communications Intern Maddie Shackleton

Providing access, promoting inclusion, and building diversity; these are the core goals behind the work of Louisville Ballet’s Outreach Manager Stacey Blakeman. With nearly a dozen different learning opportunities provided by the Louisville Ballet, Blakeman finds herself wearing many different hats. From managing each program, to writing curriculum, to delivering the services herself, each day is an adventure.

Blakeman at Hartstern Elementary School

Blakeman’s career in the arts started sort of by accident. She studied dance while growing up in Louisville and kept teaching on the side during college. After moving to San Francisco, she began her 12 year journey with the San Francisco Ballet. She started as a receptionist, and soon after filled an opening in the Education and Outreach Department. Blakeman states, “That’s when I fell in love with this work. My passion grew when I saw all of the people we were reaching.”

Blakeman began to understand a different side of dance and realized how it should be a part of education. Her passion for outreach led her back to school where she earned her degree in Arts Integration with a focus in Movement. Three years ago, she returned to Louisville to continue pursuing her passion with the Louisville Ballet.

Blakeman believes dance should be a part of every child’s life, not just something reserved for the gifted and talented, and she works tirelessly to provide that. There is limited dance programming going on in schools, but Blakeman’s work helps to fill that gap. Blakeman elaborates, “Children are naturally kinesthetic learners, and they need to move. Through dance, children are able get up out of their seat and learn in a different way. In our digital world kids are so focused on screens, but how cool is it to learn different concepts just by putting them in your body?”

This also gives teachers an opportunity to see her students in a different light and consider how they might deliver new information in the future. This way of learning is not just reserved for students; even adults can reap the benefits of movement and learn to feel more comfortable in their bodies.

Each program she directs is creative dance based with a “sprinkle of ballet”, to introduce people to a broader perspective of what the world of dance is really about. Blakeman states “People are often guarded in their perceptions of ballet. They think ‘it has nothing to do with me’, or ‘no one looks like me’, and they don’t understand it.”

By participating in these workshops, walls are broken down, and participants learn to understand the art form and learn how dance relates to their own lives.

Blakeman feels lucky to have a place like the Louisville Ballet to allow her to do this work. In the future, she hopes to expand the outreach offerings and even begin a scholarship program to send students through the school. But most importantly, she hopes to build the program so that, as she states, “No matter who you are, you can find something here.”

Photos by Alex Clark at Hartstern Elementary School

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