8-year-old SE DC girl breaks racial barriers in ballet

For many people in D.C., seeing the Nutcracker is a holiday staple. For one Eight-year old from Southeast D.C., it's the ballet that made her want to dance.

WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- For many people in D.C., seeing The Nutcracker is a holiday staple.

For one 8-year-old from Southeast D.C., it's the ballet that made her want to dance.

So when she was five-years-old, N'gegha Che asked her mom for ballet lessons.

"I went to go to The Nutcracker, I started to like ballet more," Che said.

But almost as quickly as she began, she stopped.

"My mom could not afford it," Che said.  

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A few years later, Che had the chance to try it again at a public school in Ward 8.

"Dance DC happens at eight public DC elementary schools," Katrina Toews, Director of TWB@THEARC said. 

It's a program that started 16 years ago.

"The goal was to bring ballet to all parts of the city and help make ballet accessible and be a reflection of who our city is," Toews said. 

Classical ballet dates back to the 16th century. It's often thought of as a pastime for society's elite, and professional companies have been criticized for lacking racial diversity.

For a kid growing up east of the river, being a ballerina is far from the norm.

But every day, Che challenges those stereotypes.

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"She will be a great role model for this area because you're right a lot of bad things do come out of it, but this is one good story we have right here in the D.C. Southeast area," Che's mother, Khadijaah Thomas, said. 

N'gegha just knows she loves this style of dance, and The Washington Ballet has given her the chance to work towards a dream.

"I'm looking forward the most to be a professional [ballerina]," Che said. 

She's already making big strides. Next month, Che will dance in the same ballet that inspired her, The Nutcracker.

"I thought that I wasn't going to make it, but I did and now I'm going to be a snow angel," Che said. 

Che was so good in the program at her public school she was awarded a full scholarship to continue training with The Washington Ballet. She takes classes every week at their Southeast campus.

Che told WUSA9 she practices four days a week with The Washington Ballet, and right now two days are devoted to getting ready for The Nutcracker. It will be time well spent, because she's set to dance in 13 shows.

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