Jamie Hulley Foundation and New England Ballet School Team up for Bridgeport Dance Program (with video)

The 20-week program teaches four-year-old Head Start students the basics of ballet

Few of us hear the name Jamie Hulley without thinking of some form of art. Jamie was about to turn 21 when she died from lymphoma more than eight years ago and her love for all things arts continues to grow far and wide through a foundation set up by her family and friends.

This winter, Jamie’s reach is touching Bridgeport four-year-olds as part of a community grant provided by the Jamie Hulley Foundation to the New England Ballet School of Orange. The dance school has teamed with the Head Start Program of Bridgeport to offer weekly dance classes to young children at the Bull’s Head Hollow Center.

“The rewarding thing with kids is the look on their face as they learn to dance,” says Karen Goodman, director of the New England Ballet School. “Without the foundation, this would not happen. It’s just great.”

She teaches the students the basic principles of ballet, sound symmetry and stretching, all wrapped up with a few games.

“We work on ear training,” says Goodman. “We dance all over the room where nobody’s together,  and then we count and stay together and they learn we look better, sound better and we don’t bump into things.”

The children learn spacial relations, such as not putting your hands on the person next to you, and that you can’t dance if someone’s standing in your space. They’re also taught to skip, hop and balance on one foot.

“The teachers take the instruction back to the classroom,” explains Goodman. “With the Hulley grant, we’re focusing a little bit more on bringing in the teachers so that the teachers are reinforcing what is learned in the dance class when they go back to the classroom.”

The Jamie Hulley Foundation offers community grants to organizations in Greater New Haven and Fairfield County. Many have gone to students at Race Brook School and Amity Middle School of Orange, both schools that Jamie attended.

Judy Primavera, Jamie’s mother and co-director of the foundation, said that when Jamie was a little child, likely around the age of the Bridgeport children, she performed as angel in one of New England Ballet School’s Nutcracker shows.

“What was really coincidental—though I’m beginning to believe there are no true coincidences—is that New England Ballet wanted to do a school readiness dance program with Action for Bridgeport Community Development’s Head Start program. I’ve had a relationship with ABCD for 20 years now,” Primavera says. One of the 16 ABCD centers in Bridgepoirt is named after Jamie, who clearly inherited her love for the arts from her mother.

“It’s what I care about and what Jamie was very passionate about, too,” says Primavera, continuing: “What’s so perfect about this grant is we know that low income children enter kindergarten already behind their middle-class counterparts. When you involve the arts, it’s a way of working on all aspects of that readiness: learning how to pay attention, motor control, and even counting and phonics exercises.”

She calls the new relationship with New England Ballet and the Head Start program a ‘no brainer.’

“I’ve spent my professional career as a psychologist being involved in projects that promote school achievement. My own belief is that the arts are really the way to stimulate children all the way through—from preschool all through high school,” she says. She admits that she never expected the foundation to grow as big as it has.

“It has given out $150,000 over the past eight years—and sometimes we sit back and wonder how we’ve done so much,” Primavera says.

The Hulley Foundation for the Arts has a school grant program and a community grant program.

The foundation accepts donations all year long, but relies on one large fundraiser in September, typically held around the time of Jamie’s birthday.

“She celebrated the entire month of September, so we plan our event for the second Saturday each September,” Primavera says. The event, including a silent auction brings in the bulk of the funds the foundation relies on to continue paying tribute to a lost lover of the arts.

Year-round, anyone selling on eBay can, through the Giving Works, designate anywhere between one and 100% of their item’s value to the Hulley Foundation.

“What’s nice about that, is you get a special ribbon to accompany the item description and people who are buying know that a portion of their money spent is going to a charity. It’s a small piece of our foundation, but it’s something,” says Primavera.

Information about this year’s fundraiser event is available at www.jamiehulleyartsfund.org and Primavera assures it’ll be a good time for a good cause.

“It has the spirit of my daughter. She loved all of the arts: acting, stand-up comedy, dance, and the creative arts. The only thing she didn’t do is play an instrument, but she sang!” Primavera says.

She says the whole board of directors was “very tickled” to see New England Ballet as the first Orange-based non-profit to apply for a community grant. The Hulley Foundation has given to the Amity Teen Center, to the Milford Boys and Girls Club, the Fairfield Arts Council, and now, says Primavera, “We are really helping someplace very near and dear to our hearts.”


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