Juvenile Justice Outreach Program

 
MSJcropped   Performance (with audience participation) at
 Mount Saint John, Deep River, CT

 

Begun in the summer of 2001, Connecticut Ballet's Juvenile Justice Outreach Program works to reach out to incarcerated youth and youth in residential treatment who would not otherwise have an opportunity to study a dance form and can benefit from exposure to dance and other art forms. Jump-started with funding from The Tow Foundation, the program built a unique faculty of teaching artists in disciplines such as hip hop, jazz, martial arts, African drumming, African dance, capoeira, spoken word, and visual art. Beginning in 2005, the organization was under contract with State of Connecticut's Judicial Branch, providing year-round classes to the following facilities:

Bridgeport Detention Center, Bridgeport
SAGE Center for Girls, Hamden
New Haven Detention Center, New Haven
Hartford Detention Center
Washington Street Detention Center for Girls, Hartford

During this time, we simultaneously developed satellite programs in other juvenile detention facilities and community-based programs with agencies such as Connecticut Juvenile Training School in Middletown, FSW in Bridgeport, Village for Children and Families in Hartford, and NAFI in Waterbury and Litchfield. The contract was since awarded to another agency, representing a change in course by the Court Support Services Division.

Having spent the past sixteen years working with this population and with the administrators and support staff who serve them, Connecticut Ballet teaching artists are in a unique position to provide a broad range of programming, are highly trained in their own field of expertise as well as in current methodologies (such as gender-specific treatment) which apply to this population. We are encouraged by our successes to date and look forward to continuing to work within residential treatment facilities around the state, often with funding from the Department of Children and Families. With the help of forward-thinking probation officers and therapeutic staff, we also provide mentoring services to selected youth upon return to the community setting.

TAphoto.10.09

A professional development workshop with
Connecticut Ballet teaching artists.

 
 

Program Impact
 

1) The program impacts young people by assisting in the development of a more positive individual identity. Our classes provide a safe structure within which young people can take risks and develop a stronger sense of self-worth by mastering increasingly complex musical rhythms, dance stretches and combinations.

2) Our class program helps young people develop a sense of belonging in circumstances in which they are often alienated from family and friends for significant periods of time.

3) Our classes teach both open-mindedness and discipline, leading to a greater sense of confidence and individual assumption of responsibility.

4) By connecting participants with exciting artist role models, we help develop an awareness of the possibilities inherent in participation in cultural groups, communities, and/or extended families, an ingredient which may be missing in the clients' backgrounds and world view.

5) The Juvenile Justice Outreach Program helps young people to develop physical ability and strength, dance or drumming skills which require agility groups, communities, and/or extended families, an ingredient which may be missing in the clients' backgrounds and world view.

6) The Juvenile Justice Outreach Program helps young people to develop physical ability and strength, dance or drumming skills which require agility and focused attention, knowledge of the cultural context in which the dance or music form exists, and overall positive attitudes toward new and challenging things.

7) The program assists helps combat childhood obesity by burning excess calories, developing muscle groups and new ways of body coordination.

8) The program helps young people's mental health by providing a chance to 'release' internal stresses and have fun.

9) By introducing new cultures and dance styles such as Afro-Haitian, Latin and hip hop dance to the students, we help develop critical thinking skiils and allow self-expression in a controlled environment relatively free of adult control.

10) The program teaches respect for differences amongst cultural and racial groups by studying with trustworthy and inspiring role models from diverse backgrounds and traditions.