Anderson Children's Foundation

McCallum Theatre (Friends of the Cultural Center)

East Valley Dance Project (2020-2021, 2016-2017, 2015-2016)

For the past 13 years, East Valley Dance Project — produced by McCallum Theatre Education under the umbrella of its Palm Desert Choreography Festival — has served students at Desert Mirage High and Toro Canyon Middle Schools in Thermal with powerful opportunities to experience and explore the art form of dance.

East Valley Dance Project started in 2007 and will celebrate its 10 year anniversary serving junior high and high school students at Desert Mirage High and Toro Canyon Middle Schools. It is a project that strongly supports the mission statement of the McCallum Theatre Institute which is to enhance the role of the arts in our lives and in our community by inspiring greater awareness of their educational, cognitive, emotional and spiritual power. 

At a time when the arts are being cut from curriculum, East Valley Dance Project provides underserved (98.5% Hispanic or Latino, mostly children of migrant workers, 78.6% of which are from low income households) students with a rare opportunity to explore the art form of dance, work with professional dancers and choreographers, and create and perform an original dance on stage at the McCallum Theatre. Few participants have ever visited the Theatre.

This dynamic partnership includes a residency by a professional dancers in the high school dance classes, an audition workshop for anyone interested in the Project regardless of previous dance experience. For those selected to be in the Project Ensemble, an intense rehearsal process follows with artistic director Jenny Backhaus and dancers form Backhausdance, a professional dance company based in Orange County, CA. The Project culminates in the performance of an original piece of choreography on the McCallum stage as part of the Palm Desert Choreography Festival, an event that attracts a capacity audience, and with two performances at Desert Mirage High School for other middle and high school students where the Project Ensemble performs alongside Backhausdance.

While participating in crafting an original dance, students develop an understanding of its potential as a form of expression, develop important life skills, and gain access to the McCallum Theatre. Each year 30-40 students generally become part of the Project Ensemble, and an additional 1,150 students are touched by the Project via workshops and/or performance experiences.