Kristin Barlow has seen the transformative power of dance.
“I’ve seen it change lives,” says Barlow, who has operated dance studios in Perry and Brigham City for 21 years now. “I’ve seen kids who are shy, who don’t have a lot of self-esteem or friends, and I’ve seen the transformation through dance. It changed their lives 360 degrees.”
So last summer, when she heard that yet another student had committed suicide — this one from Box Elder High School —Barlow was determined to tap into that power.
“They’ve had quite a few suicides in the last few years,” she said. “It seems like every year there’s a suicide in Box Elder schools. I saw all these statistics (about teen suicide) and just thought, ‘Something needs to be done.’ I can’t solve all the problems, but we can at least raise awareness.”
Barlow started a new organization, Dance for Life Suicide Prevention & Good Mental Health, and began offering free dance instruction to students in local schools.
“Since January, we’ve been giving free ballet lessons to anyone who wants to learn ballet,” she said.
North Ogden Elementary was one of the first schools to jump on the offer. Barlow and other volunteer dance teachers began going to the school once a week, after school, to offer their free lessons. The culmination of that hard comes this Saturday, when those students and others will present two performances of the ballet “Swan Lake” at Ogden High School.
Barlow says it’s the classic ballet featuring Tchaikovsky’s beautiful music — “With a twist,” she adds. “We have 3-year-olds in our production. We’re going to have 36 swanlets that are 3 to 6 years old in this one.”
Some of the advanced ballet students from Barlow’s Dream Pointe Ballet Company will perform in the principal roles, but the ballet will also feature plenty of “brand new beginners,” according to Barlow.
A dress-rehearsal performance is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday, with the final show at 7 p.m. that day. Tickets for each performance are $10 in advance, through www.starstruckarts.com, or $15 at the door.
Dance for Life also hosted another awareness-raising event at Ogden High last September, during Suicide Prevention Month. Barlow says they plan on continuing that tradition each September. The organization recently applied for nonprofit status.
Barlow said the free dance lessons have been “a great thing.”
“We want kids to have the opportunity to learn ballet, and to perform with professional-caliber costumes and everything,” she said. “And we hope to expand the program to other schools next year.”
They’ve already picked out the ballet for next year’s shows — “Beauty and the Beast.” Schools interested in participating in the Dance for Life program can contact Barlow at email@example.com.
Through Dance for Life, Barlow hopes to help the mental health of young people in Utah. She believes physical activity — including ballet — can help with that goal.
“As we know, endorphins create feelings of joy,” Barlow said. “Being active, and getting away from media and video games, can help. To be active will bring joy.”