Hyde Park School of Dance celebrates 25th year

Herald Intern

The Hyde Park School of Dance (HPSD) is celebrating its 25th anniversary season with the world premiere of “Amira: A Chicago Cinderella Story,” a modern-day adaptation of the classical Cinderella ballet. The adaptation is set in Hyde Park and tells the story of Amira, a teenage girl, who immigrates to Chicago without her mother and must navigate a new city, school, and culture. August Tye, Artistic Director of the HPSD, is directing the ballet and worked with seven other HPSD faculty member to choreograph the 75-minute production. The production will premiere at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St., on June 15, with performances running until June 17.

Tye wanted to perform a ballet the HPSD has never done in commemoration of its 25 years. After seeing a classical production of “Cinderella,” Tye realized the ballet “needed to be brought into 2018,” and began to imagine how the immigrant experience could translate into dance.

Tye’s own life story is “in an abstract way,” like Amira’s. Tye moved from a small town to Chicago in the early ‘90s and had to adjust to the intensity of an urban environment. Tye founded the Hyde Park School of Ballet (the name was changed to the Hyde Park School of Dance in the Fall of 2007) in 1993 after the School of Chicago Ballet, where she had been previously teaching, closed.

Tye wanted to create a dance school which gave back to its community. “When I got here, I really wanted to make sure that kids who did not have the money to dance could dance,” said Tye.

Tye’s parents were school teachers and her sister, Aimee Tye (current Associate Artistic Director of the HPSD) also danced. “That’s a lot of tuition and a lot of pointe shoes and that is not really affordable,” said Tye. Luckily, Tye’s ballet teacher believed in “working it off,” and “just wanted the girls to dance.”

Tye also wanted to challenge the notion that ballet is for “white and thin people,” only and to “bring diversity to dance,” by making dance more approachable. The HPSD has a need-based scholarship program which supports 12 percent of the school’s dancers. Having “a really good scholarship program,” was always an essential part of the school’s mission said Tye.

The school started with 30 students and now has close to 500 dancers.

“The school has grown beyond what I had imagined,” said Tye, and “I am so proud and pleased.”

There are challenges with running a non-profit.

“We are always dealing with bandwidth issues,” said Tye. “We need enough staff to take care of the kids, to make costumes, to teach the classes and we need physical space to teach the classes since we’ve grown so much, but thanks to all the community support, we are able to keep growing.”

Tye is also grateful for her teacher training. By the age of 12, Tye was learning how to teach ballet.

“I didn’t have a choice, my teacher said if you’re going to dance, you’re going to learn everything about dancing,” said Tye.

Tye’s background in business and studio management, which she learned from her dance teacher, allowed her to start the HPSD.

Tye’s teaching is a success: many alumni come back to teach, volunteer or work as administrators of the organization.

“It is really special to me when alumni come back, it makes me feel like we did a good job,” said Tye. She hopes her students leave the HPSD with confidence “and the feeling that they can accomplish whatever they set their mind to in life whether that is to be a physicist or teacher or whatever field they want to go into.” Tye recognizes that “kids need something they are passionate about, so they can have a good focus in their life,” and uses dance, which builds comradery, leadership skills, and discipline, to create “something the dancers can believe in and are passionate about.”

Tye hopes the HPSD will continue to grow in the next 25 years. “I see the school being a part of this neighborhood when I am gone,” she said.

Tickets for the premiere of “Amira: A Chicago Cinderella Story” can be purchased online at www.hydeparkdance.org/tickets or by phone at (773)-493-8498.