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MAKING A MARK: Hampton dance school and company expand access to the arts

Beauty for Ashes Contemporary School of Dance and Riddick Dance Company nurtures talent from different communities, and they teach more than just dance.

HAMPTON, Va. — David Riddick chose the name of his dance school to complement its mission.

"Beauty for ashes... it's really an exchanging for people that have pain, you're exchanging it for joy," he said.

Today, he is the artistic executive director of Beauty for Ashes Contemporary School of Dance and Riddick Dance Company.

Riddick said he's passionate about teaching and inspiring anyone with an interest in the arts. 

"When I'm meeting people of different ethnic backgrounds, I would say, they always want to find somewhere where they can call home, where their children feel at home to come dance," he said. 

"If your child wants to be a dancer and go professional into this as a career, then come see us."

The school is open to almost anyone who wants to learn dance. "

We start them at two years old, and we take them all the way up-- if you're 65, 75, and you want to come dance," he said.

The dance company, however, has a more rigorous selection process and schedule. So, Riddick said you must be 19 or older to join.

While age and skill level requirements vary between the school and company, both groups have the same mission-- to make the arts affordable for students and audiences.

"It's not focused on race, and it doesn't matter about your economic status of where you're at," said Riddick. 

"We are reaching out to dance in general."

Riddick said his personal goal is to help dancers of different ethnicities and backgrounds break into the world of professional dance.

"The making of the dancer is not so hard," Riddick said. 

"You have to just get them to be disciplined and consistent."

Beyond dance, Beauty for Ashes provides training in other areas of the arts.

"The school has two major performances a year," Riddick said. "Not only do you get the technique, you get the live performance training."

"They're learning about costuming, makeup, staging. We also have vocal training and we have piano and we have African drumming."

Regardless of a student's interest, Riddick said it's important to not just help them develop physically, but mentally and emotionally. 

"I teach my students, do what you love to do. Go with your first instinct and do not second-guess it," he said. 

"Put yourself around people that are doing that or would absolutely support you."

"If this is something you want to do, you have to visualize that in your mind, it will come out in the heart," he continued.

 "You will be granted that opportunity."

Students from the school were accepted into summer intensives at the Dance Theatre of Harlem and Joffrey Ballet in Texas.

Riddick Dance Company is planning a five-city international tour.

You can learn more at the school and company's website.

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