RICHMOND (WRIC) - This Black History Month, 8News is profiling people in our communities who are making a difference.
Two ballet dancers are changing lives on and off the stage.
30 years ago, the Richmond Ballet started a tradition training dancers from all walks of life.
Today, this class of performers carries on a legacy with dancers like Maggie Small and Thomas Ragland.
As a child, Ragland knew what he wanted.
"My mom is a single parent," he says. "Growing up wise, I came to the school of Richmond Ballet, and I was able to get on a scholarship here, and was able to grow through the school."
Even today, the Richmond Ballet continues to nurture kids like Ragland, who have talent and desire.
"I wouldn't say it's about income," he says. "Especially here, if they know a student is here that really wants to work, they will work with that student."
On top of scholarships, the company sends their dancers into schools as ambassadors.
"Some of them have never seen ballet at all," Ragland says. "So when they see it they at all like, ‘what is that?' because they have never seen it."
"It is funny when we put it all together, the kids forget they are dancing, because they just start watching us and forget that they're also performing," Small says.
Once toddlers in the system, Small and Ragland are now professionals working long hours, six days a week, in pursuit of perfection.
"It feels great like you just lift someone's spirit up, especially a kid."
But the long term goal of drawing more performers to the art of ballet is always on their minds.
"Ballet is a legacy that needs to be carried on from generation to generation, and if we are not inspiring the younger generation, we are not doing our part to take care of our craft," Small says.
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