SWVA Ballet Director Widens Reach of The Arts to All Roanoke City 4th Graders

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Southwest Virginia Ballet Artistic Director Pedro Szalay (right) with Victor Tuck, Woodrow Wilson Middle School band director.

For most fourth graders in Roanoke City — and other nearby systems — school is on a screen this quarter. But Pedro Szalay is bringing that screen to life.

Once a week, the dynamic artistic director of Southwest Virginia Ballet leads a virtual lesson that weaves together Spanish language, basic movement, music appreciation, pattern memorization and awareness of mind, body, and space in a fast-paced 30 minutes.

Dance Espanol has been part of the Roanoke City Public Schools curriculum for a limited number of 4th graders for the last nine years. This semester, with fewer arts opportunities for students and the ability to virtually reach every classroom, Roanoke City is offering Dance Espanol to all 17 of its elementary schools.

New this year, Szalay has incorporated lessons on awareness of mind, body, and space.  Students will progress through a series of lessons that teaches students how to use body language to identify and interact positively with others and demonstrate feelings through movements.  Laurie Seidel, Coordinator of Mindfulness Program at Roanoke City Public Schools served as a resource for this project.

RCPS will evaluate Dance Espanol’s format after the first nine weeks.

Szalay films his lessons inside a spacious, high-ceilinged dance studio located in Roanoke’s Industrial Center, which is home to Southwest Virginia Ballet. Each virtual class is accompanied by live piano music.

This year, Dance Espanol is focused on topics such as body language, movement through space, balance, and learning to interact positively with others in its recorded lessons.

In years past, the Dance Espanol program wrapped up with a free performance at William Fleming High School each spring. The shows were lively, standing-room-only productions featuring music, dance, Spanish and history. While this year’s Dance Espanol has a different feel, it continues to provide students with an important connection to the arts.

For a sneak peek at one of Szalay’s lessons, click here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wvwK9VUj9OY

Southwest Virginia Ballet is a dance company for pre-professional students. It is celebrating its 30th season with four dozen company members, ages 10 to 18. Company members commute from Blacksburg, Henry County and beyond each Saturday to receive free instruction and performance experience.

In past years, SVB has offered free dance performances for school children, special needs students and adults, hospital patients at Carilion Clinic, and at a wide variety of arts events. The nonprofit is always reaching out to include under-served and at-risk children and adults in the region.

For questions or to follow up with Southwest Virginia Ballet, reach executive director Carol Jessee at (540) 387-3978 or [email protected].  1005 Industry Avenue Bldg. 7A  Roanoke VA  24013