Denisea Woodard Patterson believes God granted her two most precious gifts — a love for children and the ability to teach dance.

Unfortunately for her, but fortunately for her future students, she grew up in a part of far south/southwest Houston where there was no quality dance program.

“When I was a kid I was forced to drive across town to participate in dance because there was no program available in (City Council) District K,” Woodard Patterson said.

With Rising Stars Academy of Dance & Performing Arts, which she owns, Woodard Patterson is making dance accessible to children of the 5 Corners Improvement District area.

“I am a native from this area, my family still resides here and I want to make a change in the community,” Woodard Patterson said. “I knew that once I graduated college that I was going to come back to give the kids in this community an opportunity that I didn’t have.”

Her work focuses on “students who do not have the luxury to pay for dance, music or theater classes,” she said.

The academy has two locations — Studio A: 14114 Hiram Clarke Rd. and Studio B: 3931 W. Fuqua.

“I believe that the kids in this area deserve a quality arts program that will allow them to experience dance, music, visual arts and theater,” she said. “The kids deserve so much more and my passion for the arts will forever keep me motivated to ensure that they have access to this program.”

A grant from the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs will help Woodard Patterson expand her reach. MOCA recently announced that 12 local artists and five nonprofits received a total of $95,000 in funding through the Let Creativity Happen and Cities Initiative grant programs. Administered by the Houston Arts Alliance, awardees were chosen based on projects that will create authentic cultural experiences for locals and tourists. 

The city grant “will allow me to create a safe environment for Studio B, which is our newest location. The newest location needs dance floors, mirrors, ballet bars, tumbling equipment, and a few other upgrades in order to make it a state-of-the-art facility for the program,” Woodard Patterson said. “We will also be able to support the dance program by offering more subsidized tuition plans for the families that can’t afford the program.” 

RSA of Dance and Performing Arts serves more than 100 students, with 46 new ones thanks to the added location, Woodard Patterson said. Most students live nearby and a few travel from Pearland and Missouri City to participate.

Free workshop in July 

Rising Stars will host a free ballet workshop called, “Rising Ballerinas: The Next Generation” on Saturday, July 23 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Townwood Community Center, 3402 Simsbrook Drive, where Woodard Patterson started teaching in the area with free community classes in 2012. She leased her first studio location in 2014. 

The workshop will feature teachers who have an extensive performance career in ballet, including Ashley Mayeux, who has performed with notable companies such as Alonzo Kings Ballet, Alvin Ailey American Dance and Complexions Contemporary Ballet. Mayeux is also from the 5 Corners area, Woodard Patterson said.

Children 7 and older  can register for the workshop. Until an official flyer and registration information is released, interested dancers and their families can contact [email protected].

Rising Stars Academy of Dance & Performing Arts

— By Dorothy Puch Lillig