When the over 300 dance and tumbling students of the CK Dance Theatre of Olive Branch took the stage one final time for the year, their last performance of the season was not done in front of a large crowd at the Hernando Performing Arts Center with a full house of adoring family, friends, and fans.
Coronavirus had kept the studio, and other performance schools and studios, from meeting for about 10 weeks with the designation of them not being an essential concern and forced to close. That meant teachers and students had to discover new ways to teach new moves, said Christina Kelly, dance artistic director and tumble instructor of CK Dance Theatre, 5940 Goodman Road in Olive Branch.
“It’s been 10 weeks and we’ve been on Zoom ever since,” Kelly said. “This is the first time that we’ve been able to meet back in person and put our show together. So many people were just grateful that we just kept going and we gave the kids something to do.”
The highlight of the year for the studio in past years has been a series of recital shows put on at the Hernando Performing Arts Center. But, the means of showcasing her students’ talents one last time was moved back to the studio and for a smaller audience with the March onset of the COVID-10 pandemic.
Kelly said two weeks of what was called the Red Carpet Recital Experience had the dancers and tumblers performing for immediate family only inside the studio. One week was for tumbling and last week was for the dancers. CK Dance Theatre, which Christina and her husband Kristian own and operate, is in its ninth year as a dance studio.
While the venue and setting for the final performances were changed, Christina said the recitals did continue to serve as a means to give back something to the community.
“We always have our recital at the end of the year and it’s always a fundraiser,” Kelly said. “This year, our charity of the year is the Care Center. It’s super important to us that we celebrate students, but also that we get to give back to our community and still have a fundraiser for our charity.”
The Care Pregnancy Resource Center is a Southaven nonprofit that aids women in needing help when they become pregnant.
“They give back to the community by helping those women who are pregnant of all ages, so they might provide any kind of care that might be needed when a woman is pregnant,” she said. “They rely on donations and they help those who are pregnant and don’t know what the next step is. It can be setting up doctor’s appointments and getting a doctor. It can be applying for WIC benefits and such.”
Kelly added she has used the Care Center when she was pregnant, so she is closely aware of how the nonprofit helps women.
“Being a dance teacher, you don't always have the best benefits, so they were able to guide us and help us pick a doctor out, find all the things you need when you first get pregnant,” she explained.
This year, the Red Carpet Recital Experience raised $3,500 for the Care Center. In past years, CK Dance Theatre has donated $10,000 for the 51 South Foundation, $8,000 each for the House of Grace and the Arc of Northwest Mississippi, $6,500 each to the Healing Hearts Child Advocacy Center and the Palmer Home for Children, and $3,500 to A Bridge of Hope.
Additional donations can soon be made through a Dance Recital tab on the studio’s website, www.ckdancetheatre.com.
The recitals in the past helped raise money for a designated charity by ticket sales to the shows. Without the shows this year, Kelly said a love offering donation to the Care Center was suggested to those who came to watch their child perform.
“This year, because we’re not selling tickets, we tell each family about the love offering and everyone’s been so generous,” Kelly said.