Photo courtesy E. Skinner
Elizabeth Skinner (11) has been dancing for Ballet Spartanburg for many years and was inspired to start the fundraiser Raise the Barre to bring ballet barres to young ballerinas in Nigeria, Africa. She first connected with the ballerinas through a program with Ballet Spartanburg, where she was inspired to make a change. Through promotion techniques and selling Raise the Barre merchandise, Skinner was able to raise enough money to make a change by sending ballet barres across the Atlantic.
Skinner has been dancing with Ballet Spartanburg for 10 years and has graced the stage as main roles, such as Clara in The Nutcracker. Ballet is importance to her because it teaches self-discipline and has been a creative outlet for expression. Through developing as a dancer, she is aware of the proper equipment, like barres, needed to develop skill and wanted to help other aspiring ballerinas attain these necessities.
Ballet Spartanburg has often been a source of community outreach in the past. In an interview with goupstate.com, Ballet Spartanburg executive director Gene P. Conroy recognizes the importance of outreach.
“Everyone always associates us with The Nutcracker but we are so much more. Through our outreach programs we are able to reach many people…who otherwise would not be exposed to dance,” Conroy said.
Skinner first came into contact with the young Nigerian ballerinas through a program with Ballet Spartanburg where she helped teach ballet through cross-Atlantic Zoom calls. On Zoom calls, Skinner and other Ballet Spartanburg dancers taught technique and dance combinations. Skinner and the Nigerian dancers formed a connection and even follow each other on Instagram.
Through Zoom calls, Skinner was able to see the conditions the Nigerian ballerinas were practicing in. Loud rain and scurrying chickens were not uncommon as the girls danced barefoot in the dirt outside. This inspired Skinner to launch the Raise the Barre fundraiser with the goal of providing relief to the desolate conditions observed through Zoom lessons.
“In our Zoom classes, I was inspired by the kids’ enthusiasm despite the conditions they were dancing in. I realized how much I had taken for granted – the clean studios, sprung floors, and plentiful space in my own dance classes. I hope new ballet barres will allow them to bring more students into their school and continue to grow this art form in Nigeria,” Skinner said.
Independently, Skinner created Raise the Barre decorated mug and t-shirt merchandise to raise money. The merchandise was sold through a website she created and promoted through flyers, social media awareness posts and promotion by Ballet Spartanburg. She is currently in contact with a furniture maker in Nigeria who has agreed to make the barres locally to avoid overseas shipping costs.