Baltimore-based dance group draws inspiration from ‘America’s Got Talent’ to advance local mission – Baltimore Sun

In bright yellow tops and tutus, the Baltimore dance group Ballet After Dark worked its way into the heart of “America’s Got Talent” judges and viewers from around the world during a performance broadcast on NBC in late July.

“We meet the most amazing people on this show, who thankfully trust the show, to share their message, what you guys did today, in a very, very, very powerful way,” said the Judge Simon Cowell.

The message is resilience, joy and freedom, even when rooted in pain.

“We have curated a space here, which is dedicated and committed to ensuring that black youth and women, impacted by varying levels of violence and trauma, know that happiness is just around the corner, joy is just around the corner, healing is just around the corner, and being able to turn your trauma into triumph is a very real thing,” said Tyde-Courtney Edwards, founding director of Ballet After Dark.

After starting dance therapy workshops in 2014, Edwards founded the group two years later. Although the show’s judges were immediately driven by her mission, it wasn’t always easy to pursue her passion or provide opportunities for others, she said.

“What Baltimore has contributed to, in terms of my artistry and personal growth, is that it has given me the courage, the determination and the level of ambition needed when you go out into the world and start to hear ‘no,'” Edwards said. “That’s what I faced for the last eight years, before we got this ‘America’s Got Talent’ opportunity.”

As a Baltimore girl, Edwards said people she knew didn’t always identify with ballet as an interesting art or a source of healing.

“It was incredibly difficult trying to turn a classical discipline into a joyful healing modality for a community of people that ballet was never meant to be for,” said Edwards, who lives in Baltimore.

Her organization now offers 70 dance therapy classes, mental health and financial literacy resources, free self-defense workshops, social events and advocacy training. Ballet After Dark also offers a somatic intervention program, which it defines as “reconnecting and regaining control of our mind and body through movement, various trauma-informed practices, classes.”

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Edwards, 35, said as a longtime performer, auditioning on “America’s Got Talent” had less to do with the limelight and more to do with advancing opportunities for Ballet After Dark and Baltimore. She said the show’s judges were shocked to learn that the organization was based in a city “famous for ‘The Wire’ and Freddie Gray,” referring to the HBO series and Gray’s death in 2015 following injuries sustained in Baltimore police. keep.

“It was a really great opportunity for us to not only show the judges, but show the world – the biggest talent show in the world – not just the talent we have, but the dedication to our community and to healing. “, she said. “It’s about making sure the mission of the Ballet After Dark organization is visible and amplified. We are here for our people.

With three yeses to move on to the next phase from the judges, including Cowell, Heidi Klum and Sofia Vergara, Edwards said the ballet troupe was awaiting news from the TV show on its next steps.

In the meantime, she says, people can sign up for a dance class or volunteer or donate to the organization.

Edwards said she hopes others around the world will see Ballet After Dark and be inspired and empowered to begin their healing journey.

“There comes a time when we all have to stay true to our truth, and you’re smarter than you think and you’re stronger than you think,” she said. “So when you’re ready to start the journey, take the leap.”

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