SPIRIT OF STANLY 2024: Uwharrie Youth Arts and City Youth Ballet nurture the performing arts

Since its founding in 1998, Uwharrie Youth Arts (UYA) has played a pivotal role in fostering the growth of the performing arts among young people in Stanly and surrounding counties. As an umbrella organization, Uwharrie Youth Arts has been instrumental in supporting and promoting the activities of City Youth Ballet and Playtime Children’s Theatre, thereby enriching the cultural landscape of the region.

The genesis of Uwharrie Youth Arts

Uwharrie Youth Arts was established with a clear mission: to increase awareness and involvement in the performing arts among the youth. Over the years, UYA has educated and entertained, making significant contributions to the community. Its impact is evident in the thousands of young people who have participated in its productions, workshops and local performances.

City Youth Ballet: A Beacon of Ballet in Stanly County

City Youth Ballet, supported by Uwharrie Youth Arts, made its mark in 1998 with its first presentation of “The Nutcracker” in Stanly County. Initially an annual event from 1998 to 2002, this production shifted to a biennial schedule, gracing the stage of the Stanly County Agri-Civic Center.
Hundreds of youth from Stanly and neighboring counties have since participated in this full-length ballet, showcasing their talents and passion.

Making Ballet Accessible

City Youth Ballet artistic director Leigh Roush developed the program with a commitment to making ballet accessible. The program offers free school performances to all Stanly County Schools students, allowing roughly 3,000 children each year to witness the magic of the Nutcracker without any cost.

Every student receives a complimentary ticket for public performances, provided they are accompanied by a paying adult. This initiative, supported by fundraising campaigns, ensures that professional-level ballet is accessible to all.

Thora Kilde performs for the City Youth Ballet. (Contributed)

The Nutcracker: A Regional Favorite

Thanks to the support of local businesses and individuals, City Youth Ballet stages a full-scale production of “The Nutcracker,” complete with professional costumes, sets and special effects. The inclusion of professional guest artists offers young performers a glimpse into the life of a professional dancer, enriching their experience. This production has become a holiday tradition for locals and visitors from across the Southeast.

UYA/CYB: Beyond Performance

UYA/CYB’s commitment extends beyond performance. They offer apprenticeships in various aspects of production, such as stage design, technical direction and costuming, under professional guidance. This holistic approach to performing arts education ensures that young individuals are exposed to all facets of production, not just the spotlight.

Albemarle Academy of Dance: The Official School

Albemarle Academy of Dance is the founding and official school of Uwharrie Youth Arts; However, participation in UYA events is open to all interested individuals, with a guarantee that everyone who auditions for a production will be cast in some capacity, ensuring inclusivity and opportunity for all.

Uwharrie Youth Arts: A Commitment to the Arts

Since its inception, Uwharrie Youth Arts has remained steadfast in its dedication to enhancing the involvement of youth in the performing arts. It strives to connect and engage youth, educators and families to the performing arts in innovative, meaningful and participatory ways.

In conclusion, Uwharrie Youth Arts and City Youth Ballet, with their diverse programs and inclusive approach, continue to be beacons of artistic opportunity and education in the region, nurturing the next generation of performing artists and audiences alike.

This article previously appeared in the Spirit of Stanly magazine.