Ballet Nouveau Colorado’s Anti-Bullying Program Goes National

Posted on: February 23rd, 2011 by admin

Dance Theatre of Tennessee and Oklahoma City Ballet Launch Ugly Duckling in Area Public Schools

DENVER – Ballet Nouveau Colorado’s (BNC) Ugly Duckling Anti-Bullying Program has gone national, expanding into Nashville, Tenn and Oklahoma City.  BNC School Director Julia Wilkinson Manley recently traveled to Nashville, to work with Dance Theatre of Tennessee to share this original and meaningful dance curriculum that will soon be featured in Nashville area public schools. Oklahoma City Ballet has also just received a grant to add this program to its community programming.


This came about in part because the state of Tennessee recently adopted affective education for anti-bullying in the public school system. Affective education focuses on the social, emotional and psychological needs of students, which also includes lessons on tolerance, respect for others, good decision making and self-esteem.  All these lessons are interrelated when it comes to addressing bullying, and it mirrors the anti-bullying messages in the Ugly Duckling choreography.

This state-wide initiative sparked the interest of Christopher Mohnani, artistic director of Dance Theatre of Tennessee (DTT), to find ways in which the company could help equip schools to promote anti-bullying through dance. Upon doing research on anti-bullying programs, Mohnani discovered BNC’s highly successful Ugly Duckling Anti-Bullying Program and decided to contact BNC to discuss a possible collaboration.

“One of BNC’s primary community education goals is to teach other qualified dance organizations across the U.S. to provide high-quality, effective and curricular-based dance education in their own communities,” said Wilkinson Manley. “Dance Theatre of Tennessee was the perfect organization for us to pilot such a program and take it national.”

The Ugly Duckling was choreographed by former BNC Artistic Director Robert Mills in 2005. Mills’ concept was to take the classic Hans Christian Andersen tale and add a modern twist that would appeal more to youth.  Mills chose Cindy Lauper’s popular 80’s tunes to create the musical story line and it provides an upbeat energy for the tale to develop while showcasing different styles of dance. The piece focuses on demonstrating how bullying can affect students and teaches students how to stop bullying.

In 2007, BNC collaborated with Creating Caring Communities, the creators of “Bully Proofing Your School,” to develop the emotional ballet into a comprehensive anti-bullying program. This award-winning program has been part of BNC’s lecture and demonstration series for several years, and thousands of students in the Denver metro area have seen BNC’s Ugly Ducking Anti-Bullying Program. Teachers are provided with pre-materials and post-materials to set the stage for an in-house performance for the students.

BNC has agreed to allow DTT use the ballet and the educational materials for a period of three years along with some costumes. DTT is scheduled to begin performing the ballet in early March for three elementary schools in the area, with the plan to expand the program throughout the Middle Tennessee region.

Mohnani commented, “We are thrilled and can’t wait to present this program to area schools. We have no doubts that it will be a big hit and will certainly make for a worthy program. We also hope to have future partnership and collaboration opportunities with BNC. Already, Julia and I are talking about future projects."

Oklahoma City Ballet, where Mills is now artistic director, recently received a grant to take this program into public schools in the Oklahoma City area for their 2012-13 season. Mills added, “I had no idea when creating this work as an educational tool that it would resonate on such a national level. As someone who can personally relate to being bullied, it is an honor to know this piece is making such a positive impact in our communities.”