Savannah Ballet Theater has received the largest grant since its founding in 1998. The $52,000 grant from the City of Savannah Arts and Culture Enrichment program as well as a $5,000 from the Georgia Council for the Arts will support SBT’s educational outreach programs.
SBT’s mission is to “develop and showcase the talent of dedicated Savannah dancers and to engage in educational outreach and promotion of the art of dance within our community.” According to their press release, they are the first professional arts organization in Savannah to offer innovative and accessible low-sensory experiences. Their commitment community is demonstrated in their education and outreach programs that include providing subsidized tickets and transportation for performances.
Both grants enable SBT, Savannah and southeast Georgia’s only professional dance company, to increase access and deepen innovative educational programming. In a press release issued by SBT, Rebecca Martin Dugal, Artistic Program Coordinator and a Company Dancer at SBT says, “We are extremely grateful to the City of Savannah and Georgia Council for the Arts for their generous support. We have not been able to present live performances since December 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic which has resulted in the loss of much-needed revenue through ticket sales. We are excited to resume our educational outreach to schools virtually through Peter and The Wolf, and hope to resume in-person outreach later this year, if safe to do so.”
SBT is already putting the funds to good use. In mid-April, they staged and filmed an outdoor, contemporary interpretation of Russian composer Sergei Sergeyevich Prokofiev’s 1936 symphonic fairy tale, Peter and The Wolf. In mid to late May, the footage will be edited and distributed to teachers at the Savannah Savannah-Chatham County Public School System preparing students for SBT dancers to visit the school and teach students dance styles, history, and education.
This funding support comes as nonprofits try to emerge from a very difficult year. Rebecca Dugal, Artistic Program Coordinator at SBT shares, “We are so grateful to the City of Savannah for this outreach opportunity. We believe this is a great investment to the community and are excited to work with students of all ages. After a hard year, we are ready to share our passion and talent and to bring the joy of dance back to the public.”
Both grants will also support low-sensory performances of SBT’s fall productions, and, if COVID-19 safety precautions allow, The Nutcracker, scheduled to be performed this coming December. Designed specifically for individuals with autism spectrum disorders, sensory sensitivities, or other disabilities, sensory-friendly performances make specific adjustments like keeping theater lights on during performances, lowering the music volume, and adjustments to help decrease sensory stimulation.
Abby McCuen, Program Coordinator and author of SBT’s grant explains how significant the funding will be for SBT and for sharing the power of dance, “The City of Savannah and the Georgia Council for the Arts are so generous to its nonprofits. This grant is a stamp of approval and I am so grateful to the city, the mayor, and city commissioners for their generosity. We can introduce a new generation to ballet and that’s so powerful.”
The City of Savannah’s Arts and Culture Enrichment program is intended to integrate arts, culture, heritage, design, and other creative disciplines as strategies that strengthen the City of Savannah’s economic, physical, and social vitality. According to the City’s website, each year, the City of Savannah seeks proposals that position arts, cultural, and creative programs as catalysts to realize the City’s goals of increasing economic growth through skill-building, employment, and entrepreneurship; improving the aesthetics of built environments; building and reinforcing a strong sense of community; engaging, developing and inspiring young people through imaginative approaches; and to increase access to art and culture in close proximity to where residents live. Proposals are reviewed and evaluated by members of the Cultural Affairs Commission, who are City of Savannah citizens appointed through an application process by the Mayor and Aldermen.
For information on Savannah Ballet Theater visit: savannahballettheatre.org. For information the City of Savannah’s ACE program visit: savannahga.gov/2720/Arts-Culture-Enrichment-Program.