Ballet: First You Need The Right Body, Then You Need A Chance (Click to read/view more)

About DanceChance

Pacific Northwest Ballet offers students in Seattle Public School partner schools the opportunity to study classical ballet free of charge, dependent only on the students’ potential and interest in the program.

PNB’s DanceChance program works with partner schools to identify students with talent for classical ballet. Through DanceChance, PNB seeks to build a School and Company that reflects the diversity of our community by providing access and opportunity to talented students.

DanceChance aims to:

  • Enrich each student’s life with the opportunity to study classical ballet.
  • Cultivate a diverse Company and School
  • Train the next generation of ballet dancers.

DanceChance began in 1994 and was designed by Francia Russell, Founding Artistic Director and Director of PNB School. In Russell’s words: “It is our hope that exposing these talented kids to classical ballet and other forms of dance will open up new worlds for them. Few, if any, of them would ever have known about their talent without the DanceChance program and some might never have found a productive passion in life. We feel confident that they will repay us through the fresh and diverse influence they will have on the future of our art form.”



The DanceChance Screening team visits partner schools in the fall and identifies third-grade students with the unique physical aptitude and focus required to pursue a career in dance. Selected students participate in a 9-week introductory fall session. Students are invited to continue on to the subsequent spring session and the fourth grade class based on their progress, potential and interest. Upon graduation from the two year program, some students are invited to integrate into PNBS Level III classes.


  • Full scholarships for classical ballet training twice a week
  • Dancewear and shoes
  • Transportation to and from PNB from their elementary school
  • Tickets to Pacific Northwest Ballet performances

In addition students receive a well-rounded dance education, including: fieldtrips to PNB’s Costume Shop, a chance to meet professional dances, and guest teachers in Modern, Hip Hop, Afro-Brazilian and Jazz.

All classes are taught by Pacific Northwest Ballet School’s renowned faculty of educators with live musical accompaniment.



DanceChance aims to enrich the lives of students through classical ballet training, developing beneficial skills regardless of their future career paths. Research shows that arts education teaches children life skills such as developing an informed perception, articulating a vision, learning to solve problems and make decisions, building self-confidence, and self-discipline (Americans for the Arts, 2002).



Students have the opportunity to perform in the Annual PNB School performance in the spring and often perform with the Company in PNB productions such as George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker™, The Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  Graduates have also danced professionally with such distinguished companies as San Francisco Ballet, Singapore Dance Theater and Oregon Ballet Theatre.

Are you a former DanceChance student?

We’d love to hear your story and find out where you have gone in life! E-mail

dancechance_benefitsEducational Role

DanceChance is an integral part of a child’s educational experience. It aims to enhance the children’s self-discipline, self-confidence and sense of achievement through the structure and demands of ballet training. DanceChance expects children to do well in their schoolwork in order to stay in the program. Each participating school coordinates a way for each child to make up missed schoolwork. Most children progress academically while in DanceChance and many schools and parents have attributed this success to the program.


The children themselves, with help and advice from family and teachers, are to a large extent in control of how much of their dance potential is reached. The decisions they make about their own behavior, attendance, and school work play a role in the children’s continuation in DanceChance.


See DanceChance children in action and learn more about the program.

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PNB’s DanceChance

Learn more about the program & hear from DanceChance students

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From Student to Swan

Bella and Angeli started ballet through our DanceChance program, grew up in PNB School and are now in our Professional Division, learning what it takes to be in the corps de ballet of Swan Lake.

Seattle PI Photos

Click here to view a gallery of pictures from DanceChance’s 21st Annual Observation Day

DanceChance Facts

  • Francia Russell began DanceChance in 1994 with four partner schools in Seattle.
  • Currently, DanceChance has 22 partner schools in the Seattle School District.
  • DanceChance screened 1500 third grade students this year.
  • 109 third and fourth grade students enrolled in DanceChance this past fall.
  • 28% of students speak a language other than English at home, with 6 languages represented.
  • 75% of participants are students of color.
  • 43 DanceChance students are enrolled in Levels 3–Professional Division of the School.
  • Scholarships for DanceChance I and II students cost a total of $88,000 for the year.
  • Transportation costs for the year will total $50,000.
  • Classroom teachers at the partner schools reported 48% of students improved in their self-esteem while participating in DanceChance.  Teachers also reported that 62%of students improved in their interest in the arts.
  • Parents of DanceChance students reported that 63% of students improved in their positive body-image and 48% of students improved in their attitude towards school.
  • 100% of parents reported that their students had a positive experience in DanceChance.

Many DanceChance graduates have gone on to professional careers, including the following:
Carlos Cruz: Oregon Ballet Theater
Quinn Wharton, San Francisco Ballet, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago
Ken Mankin: Kansas City Ballet II, Ballet Austin, Ballet Met II
Eric Hipolito: Pacific Northwest Ballet, Ballet Arizona
Alice Cao: Ballet Memphis, American Repertory Ballet, Singapore Dance Theatre
Anders Southerland: Milwaukee Ballet II
Enrico Hipolito: Ballet West II
Angeli Mamon: Pacific Northwest Ballet
Alexa Domenden: OBT2

Enrollment numbers of DanceChance students, 2015–2016

Seattle DanceChance I 87
Seattle DanceChance II 22
Level III 15
Intermediate Boys 7
Level IV 8
Level V 3
Level VI
Level VII 3
Level VIII 3
Professional Division 4
TOTAL 152 students

Seattle Partner Schools

Arbor Heights
Bailey Gatzert
Beacon Hill International
Broadview-Thomson K-8
Dearborn Park
Graham Hill
John Muir
Martin Luther King
South Shore K-8
Thurgood Marshall
Van Asselt
Wing Luke

DanceChance student. ©Angela Sterling

DanceChance student. ©Angela Sterling

It has been our observation that the students who have been involved with DanceChance learn to focus on their assignments and manage their time wisely. One of our teachers has made the following statement about a current DanceChance participant, “Since he has started DanceChance he has had fewer behavior problems, his focus on class work has matured and he has gained control over his body and sharing space with others. It would be wonderful to offer this positive outcome to more of our students through the DanceChance program.” Christina Morningstar, Principal of Graham Hill Elementary School

“DanceChance has shaped me in such a way that I have gained confidence, discipline, time management and inner strength all in one package.”—Jordan Murphy, DanceChance graduate

“The DanceChance program at PNB gave me the chance to make my dreams a reality.”—Kuu Sakuragi, DanceChance graduate

“The pride and confidence he got from being “chosen” for DanceChance was significant, and greatly contributed to the sustained level of interest he has shown. This is a great program and a brilliant way to find and nurture young talent.”—Parent, Beacon Hill International School

“DanceChance has given our daughter an opportunity that would otherwise be outside of our socio-economic reality. This has allowed her to gain confidence in herself and that there are potentially greater possibilities for her!”—Parent, Leschi Elementary

“DanceChance is an incredibly opportunity for our students. Students who participate in this program develop a strong appreciation for dance and music and are able to share their experiences with other students and therefore expose more students to the fine arts. Enriching student lives enriches us all.”—Broadview Thomson K-8 Staff

“For the students who are able to directly participate, it is a life-changing experience – they develop a view of themselves, and poise and confidence that they would not have otherwise.”—Awnie Thompson, (Retired) Principal at John Muir Elementary School

“When I was first selected in third grade, I wasn’t going to do it. I thought I’d get teased about ballet being a girl’s thing. I decided to at least try out the classes. I really did like it! The teachers are great. I have had five different teachers and they all tell me to stick with dance. DanceChance made me more outgoing. I’m not afraid to do other stuff.”—Shakeenan Griffin, 4th grade student, Arbor Heights Elementary

Volunteers work directly with DanceChance students helping them prepare for class, supervising educational activities, and coordinating transportation issues. Volunteers are needed in Seattle at the Phelps Center on Tuesdays and/or Thursdays from 10:45 am–12:45 pm. Volunteers should have experience with children, as well as an interest in working with students from various socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds. Volunteers should also be flexible and able to guide students in a positive and constructive manner.

If you are interested in this rewarding opportunity, please contact Jennifer McLain, DanceChance Manager, at 206.441.2435 ext. 3516 or

For More Information

If you would like more information about DanceChance, contact Jennifer McLain, DanceChance Manager at 206.441.2435 ext. 3516, or e-mail

Are you a former DanceChance student?

We’d love to hear your story and find out where you have gone in life! E-mail

DanceChance Manager: Jennifer McLain
DanceChance Coordinator: Lauren Kirchner
Main DanceChance Office Seattle-The Phelps Center: 206.441.2435 ext. 3516

PNBS Artistic Director: Peter Boal
PNBS Administrative Director: Denise Bolstad
Faculty: Dane Holman, Lauri Michelle Houk, Ben Houk, William Miglino
PNBS Consulting Psychologist: Toby Diamond, Ph.D. 206.323.1988

DanceChance Videos

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DanceChance at First Look

DanceChance – First Look 2015

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Nathaniel and Enrico’s Story

Listen to Nathaniel and Enrico share their DanceChance experience.

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PNB’s DanceChance program

Seattle Channel features PNB’s DanceChance program

DanceChance Guest Teaching Artists

See Guest Bios

Student Handbook

2015-2016 Student Handbook

DanceChance is generously sponsored by numerous individuals and the following:

D.V. & Ida J. McEachern Charitable Trust
Fales Foundation Trust
The Hearst Foundations
Kelly Foundation of Washington
Arlene A. Wright DanceChance Fund
Harold L. Wyman Foundation
Peg & Rick Young Foundation

Dancewear Sponsor