NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - In 1993 Nashville resident Patricia Cross had an idea - to start a ballet school where any child can afford to dance.
Seven years later she opened Rejoice School of Ballet in East Nashville where students pay what they can. Some dance for free.
"I've danced all my life, since I was four years old," said Cross, the founding executive director of Rejoice School of Ballet and a former instructor at Vanderbilt, Belmont and Harding Academy in Nashville.
"I realized there are many, many talented young dancers that would want to study ballet who didn't have the money."
The non-profit operates on a sliding scale, based on a family's income.
Leotards, tights, and costumes are included.
Sixth grader Ayout, a refugee from Kenya, has been at student at Rejoice for seven years.
"I like this class better than going to school," said Ayutte, who turns 12 next week. "And when I do go to school, I'm usually wanting to get out of school because I can come here instead."
Cross said ballet also teaches valuable life skills like team work, time management and commitment.
This year 120 girls and boys of different cultural, racial, and socio-economic backgrounds will have the chance to sashay through the doors and pirouette across the floors - which happen to need an upgrade.
"We're starting to raise money for a new sprung floor for that studio," Cross said. "That's like around $11,000.
"Ballet is so beautiful. Kids are so beautiful. They deserve this opportunity. I just want to make this opportunity to as many kids as possible."
Rejoice turns 20 this year and is currently supported by private donors, grants, churches and a few businesses.
It uses studio space inside Edgefield Baptist Church, East Park Community Center and Hadley Park.
Cross would love to take it to other locations around Middle Tennessee.
Rejoice will perform an original ballet about resiliency, created by Nashville Ballet Company Dancer Gerald Watson, on Friday, Feb. 21, from 7-9 p.m.
at West End United Methodist Church, 2200 West End Ave., in Nashville.
"The Little Engine that Could" features a lead dancer in a wheelchair.
For information about Rejoice School of Ballet at 700 Russell St., Nashville, TN 37206, call 615-210-1147 or visit the web site.