The Shari Rarick School of Dance had to cancel its traditional year-end recital for the first time since the Kennedy administration.

But thanks to a Consumers Energy Foundation grant, students, teachers and parents can still celebrate together online this year.

The Battle Creek dance studio was one of more than 200 small businesses across the state to receive local grants to assist with challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Consumers Energy Foundation donated $1.8 million to nine organizations across Michigan, focusing on helping female- and minority-owned small businesses.

Rarick’s foundation grant flowed through Battle Creek Unlimited, the venerable economic development organization focused on generating investment and creating jobs in the community.

“I started the studio in 1962 in downtown Battle Creek, and June 13 would have been our 58th annual recital,” said Rarick, a Battle Creek Central High School graduate. “Once it became clear we would not hold our in-person event, every cell in my body wanted to find a way to make something come together for the students. This is the last time for some, who are graduating and going to college in the fall.

“I’m thrilled we will hold an event in August to celebrate. The parents will take photos of the students in various poses in their costumes, hair and makeup. Their photos will be choreographed with their music.”

Following Michigan’s Stay Home, Stay Safe order in March, Rarick closed the doors and moved online to connect the more than 200 dance families and her staff of one full-time and nine part-time employees. Keeping a routine and helping the dancers focus on technique and maintain flexibility was vital. Several lessons are now accessible from their website.

The studio provides classes for girls and boys ages 7 through 18 in ballet, tap, jazz, acrobatics, hip-hop and lyrical. Rarick also offers Mom and Me, Tots and Combination classes for younger students 2 through 7 as well as adult tap and ballet. Her students also have participated in local festivals and parades, although most have been canceled or postponed since the outbreak.

Rarick is hopeful to carry on the studio’s tradition of performing a Christmas program (that was formerly part of the International Festival of Lights), which is a free show to share the students’ gift of dance with the community. Attendees bring canned goods that are donated to the Northeast Neighborhood Food Pantry in Battle Creek.

While COVID-19 also caused delays in costume delivery, plans are now moving smoothly for the August celebration. This year’s theme is “Together in Heart” with special T-shirts reading: Further Apart, but Together in Heart – Shari Rarick School of Dance 2020.

NOTE: The Consumers Energy Foundation does not use funds generated from customers’ energy bills. Instead, it uses shareholder funds to support nonprofit organizations across Michigan.

Shari Rarick School of Dance