RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) -
They are nationally recognized, but you've probably never heard of them. The Richmond City Dance Theatre is made up of 21 young dancers, and many people believe they're Richmond's hidden gems.
The program is part of Richmond's Parks and Recreation department. Some of the young ladies have been a part of the dance program since they were toddlers.
"I've been in the program since I was four, but I've been in the company for eight of those years," says Aida Powell, who is about to graduate from high school and begin college.
The City Dance Theatre has been around for decades, and it was the vision of ballet instructor, Annnette Holt. Holt asked the city to start the program back in 1979.
"At that time, all I saw in the program were adults. There are 1,400 adults. They were all Caucasian and they did square dance and folk dancing," says Holt. "I asked the director immediately why we aren't programming for centers of the children I see in the community."
Today, hundreds of children learn jazz, modern, african, ballet and other forms of dance from the instructors at the Pine Camp Cultural Arts Center in Richmond and a handful of those students move into the competitive program.
The dancers spend more than 10 hours practicing every week, and practice time increase when they prepare for competitions.
"I will put them up against anyone. I'm not afraid to put them up against anyone," says Rodney Williams, the instructor for modern and african dance.
In a recent regional competition, the ladies won 14 first place trophies, and two second place trophies.
"Most dancers that we come against, they might be able to take their legs higher, [but] they don't dance from the inside out," says Williams.
The group will be participating in a national competition in Orlando, Florida in July. There is a handful of groups, like Friends of City Dance, who sponsor the program; but parents say they pay for many of the expenses out of their own pockets.
If you would like to help the Richmond City Dance Theatre get to their national competition in Orlando, click here.