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Books, ballet become one in Las Vegas student’s online course for kids

When it became clear that public schools in Clark County would begin the 2020-21 year in distance learning mode, high school junior Dre Boyd-Weatherly started working on a passion project designed to share her love of reading and ballet with younger kids.

The result: an online class that marries the two in an interactive format.

“It’s always what I’ve been doing,” Boyd-Weatherly, a 16-year-old Valley High School junior, said of her 14 years of experience in ballet. “That’s my drive to start this whole thing because ballet has been such an important part of my life.”

Boyd-Weatherly’s 45-minute weekend classes, which started last month and continued until mid-December begin with 15 minutes of reading books with themes of kindness and self-motivation, she said.

Then comes the ballet.

After a break and a warm-up, the class of 2- to 8-year-oldsproceeds to do about 20 minutes of ballet work. Boyd-Weatherly said the class focuses on teaching ballet fundamentals and positions that students can then practice on their own.

She also included a version of the ballet classic “The Nutcracker” in the “ballet boxes” she provides to each student in exchange for a $30 enrollment fee, along with ballet shoes, a tutu, a T-shirt and other books.

Boyd-Weatherly said she experienced a little bit of stage fright before stepping into the teaching limelight.

“Our first class, I was super nervous, but I was surprised by how much they engaged,” she said. “I tried to be interactive, ask questions. Now they feel like they can turn on their mics on and talk.”

Teaching and learning dance via computer has its ups and downs. On one hand, Boyd-Weatherly said, she’s noticed that memorization is tougher when the lesson is virtual.

But the internet also has plenty of resources to learn ballet, including recordings of classical music to help young students learn to count beats.

“It’s a big commitment because a lot of it is fundamentals and teaching yourself proper body positions and placements,” she said. “But you can find those resources and work toward it.”

Boyd-Weatherly said that in the near future, she’s looking into applying for a grant in order to be able to offer the class again, and to more students. She’d also like to waive the cost of the class for students in need.

While she has considered a career teaching ballet, Boyd-Weatherly said she’d like to focus on STEM classes in college, and eventually hopes to become a lawyer.

In the meantime, she’s enjoying the fruits of her creation as she watches her class practice their first positions.

“It’s just nice to see the kids active and smiling, and to get kids engaged,” she said. “I don’t dance at a studio because of my schedule, but being able to have this as a creative outlet has been amazing.”

Contact Aleksandra Appleton at 702-383-0218 or aappleton@reviewjournal.com. Follow @aleksappleton on Twitter.

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