“To achieve anything requires discipline, focus, and delayed gratification. We adhere to Malcom Gladwell’s tenet that it takes 10,000 hours of practice in a given field to achieve success,” said Ruth Wiesen, Director of the Thomas Armour Youth Ballet (TAYB).
Celebrating its 60th year, the school is dedicated to providing access to the dance for interested students providing scholarships, subsidized and free dance education for those who qualify.
The famous ballet school and performing company that began with Ballets Russes soloist Thomas Armour (1909-2006) has long been a part of the Miami arts scene with the founding in 1951 of The Miami Conservatory and The Miami Ballet. Mr. Armour studied and performed in pre-war Europe, served in the US Army and later founded the Conservatory and nurtured the development of The Miami Ballet, one of America’s renowned regional dance companies. In 1996, the performing company was re-named for Mr. Armour and in 2004 The Conservancy was absorbed into the TAYB.
For many years, ballet was a pursuit that was often beyond the financial capacity of many families. Young children with a passion for the dance just couldn’t afford the hours of paid instruction necessary for success in the discipline. In 1988, the TAYB created a scholarship program to assist children from low income neighborhoods to gain them placement in dance programs at County Magnet schools. The programs grew to include intensive summer programs in New York, outreach at venues in low income neighborhoods around the County, and college assistance programs. Today there are five outreach sites serving over 1,100 students each year with 600 on full scholarship. The original Miami Conservatory, located on SW 73rd Street serves over 800 children per year.
Ruth Wiesen whose professional career includes nursing and professional dancing, believes in bringing out the best in children by supporting their choices and helping to build a core character that will see them through life.
“At TAYB we believe dance is a vehicle to success,” says Ms. Wiesen.Ruth Wiesen, Director, Geannina Burgos, Chief of Arts Education. Photographed in front of the Thomas Armour Youth Ballet location.
Anyone who has had the opportunity to see miniature dancers walking gracefully up and down the Conservatory’s outdoor staircase or seen a performance can spot the air of self-confidence their training inculcates. Many of the young children schooled here have become professional dancers; others are achieving other career goals. Witness Javier Aranzales who recently received a Gates Millennium Scholarship Award to pay for his education from undergraduate to doctoral degrees at Harvard University.
The performances by the school are designed to train and prepare the students, but they are also aimed at demonstrating to children in the audience that they can become dancers, too. Through the success of their outreach programs, Miami’s regional diversity is well represented. It is an inspiration for young children to, as Ruth Wiesen said, “See someone who looks just like you performing on stage.”
With approximately 7,500 students attending the school’s performances, the program has had an impact on a lot of children. As Geannina Burgos, Chief of Arts Education, reports, “It is infective for kids; they all want to do it.”
The annual Nutcracker performance is scheduled for December 1 at the County Auditorium, at 7P. Guest artists include alumnus Caroline Betancourt and her partner Evgueni Dokoukine of the Louisville Ballet.
The Thomas Armour Youth Ballet is located at 5818 SW 73rd Street, South Miami. FMI: 305-667-5543 or visit the website: thomasarmouryouthballet.org.