Dana Reed, the director of Hope Stone Kids New Orleans, draws from her background as a professional dancer to inspire creativity in area students. Founded in 2002, the Hope Stone Kids program meets the artistic and emotional needs of underserved students in Houston, Texas. The New Orleans program, its first national launching, provides outreach to the New Orleans community by partnering with local schools. Hope Stone Kids New Orleans serves 250 children all over the metro area, providing free weekday arts programs to deserving students from neighborhoods such as Tremé, as well as homeschoolers.
Reed began her career as a professional dance instructor at the Bates Dance Festival, a three-week event in Maine begun in 1983. After serving as an education intern, she decided to pursue dance instruction as a full-time profession. At Bates she met Jane Wiener, the Hope Stone founder, who invited Reed to launch the New Orleans program. Reed, a Mississippi native who worked as a professional dancer in New York City for many years, jumped at the chance to return home to the South.
Given Reed’s background in dance, she teaches everything from traditional ballet to modern dance and African drumming. In addition, she introduces students to a variety of arts at a young age, so that they may specialize in their interest later on. Hope Stone’s programs also introduce students to lessons in music, theater, yoga, creative writing and the visual arts.
Reed's newest program will launch this fall. Hope Stone Kids has a partnership with Dance Quarter, which was founded by Nathalie Gomes and located in NOLA Spaces alongside Hope Stone New Orleans. Starting with three schools, with plans to expand to three more in the spring, the program will introduce children to ballroom dance lessons during their PE classes. At the end of the school year, children from all of the schools will participate in a gala performance.
Additionally, Reed began the Alternative Collaborations dance group in 2003, and she decided to continue the program when she relocated to New Orleans. It is a professional troupe featuring all-local dancers. She will soon create an offshoot of this group for area teenagers, allowing the young students to learn from a variety of professional dancers.
When it comes to launching new programs, Reed says that making connections and networking the New Orleans area is key. She notes that most New Orleanians are grateful to help launch original programs. The Greater New Orleans Foundation, with its partnership in youth development and community outreach, also aided her. Furthermore, Reed notes that parents are always willing to help.
Although New Orleans famously embraces the arts, Reed notes that community support is crucial to the survival of her programs. Unlike many after-school programs, Reed operates Hope Stone at no cost to her students. She always welcomes volunteers. Additionally, her program is currently in need of office space.
What is the most fulfilling aspect of her work? “I get to do what I love every single day,” she says. “Every day I leave my job knowing that I touched the lives of children. It is very fulfilling.”