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'Dance is my life': Oak Cliff ballet students share excitement over acceptance into world-renowned dance school in NYC

10 young artists with TMJ Dance Project in Oak Cliff have been accepted for the Dance Theater of Harlem School's Summer Intensive.

DALLAS — A group of young artists at a small dance studio in Oak Cliff, Texas are leaping into their dreams. 

Their school, TMJ Dance Project, has become a hub and safe haven for training young dancers from historically underserved communities.

“Dance is my life,” said Leigha Davis.

The students spend several hours each week learning a variety of dance style and techniques. 

“The TMJ Dance Project was needed because there is a huge opportunity gap for children of color in the art of dance. There’s a lot of financial challenges that students face. There are proximity challenges that our students face, and there is also equity and inclusion challenges that our students face,” said Terrance Johnson, founder and executive artistic director of TMJ Dance Project. 

At this dance studio, closing the opportunity gaps comes through disciplined education and through exposure. 

“What inspires me most is how far it can get me and where I can go,” said Amir Najm.

TMJ Dance Project recently announced a group of its young artists have been selected to join the Dance Theater of Harlem School’s Summer Intensive.

“This small studio in Oak Cliff, Texas is sending 10 students to New York, New York,” said Johnson. 

The Dance Theater of Harlem School’s Summer Intensive is a three-week rigorous ballet training program at the world-renowned dance company’s studios in the Big Apple. 

“This is huge, because anybody that knows dance knows that New York is dance capital of the world,” said Johnson.  

The students say auditioning for the Dance Theater of Harlem School’s Summer Intensive was competitive.

“A room full of sharks. You’re trying to one-up the other person, while looking at the judge like, 'hey, come pick me, come pick me,'” said Davis. 

Davis was also accepted to the Alvin Ailey School’s summer program. 

Getting its 10 dancers to New York City is a plan TMJ Dance Project is working to choreograph right now. The dance school and the students’ parents are working to raise $2,500 per student for expenses. 

“I know when they come back, they’re going to have so much more for the city at large. You know, they’re not just putting on for TMJ. They’re putting on for the city,” said Johnson.

To learn more about the TMJ Project and how you can help support the students in their journey to intensive dance training this summer, click here.