q Keeping Kids Inspired: How Celebrate the Beat Continues to Adapt - Denver Foundation

Keeping Kids Inspired: How Celebrate the Beat Continues to Adapt

April 19, 2022

It’s March 2020. Heather Kratz, Associate Artistic Director of Celebrate the Beat (CTB), was teaching at Harris Park Elementary School. The energy was like that of a dream. Whispers between teachers spoke of doubt and panic while the children danced to the music played by CTB Musical Director, Patrick Padgett. With the end of the year performance just two weeks away, the unseen monster of 2020 was waiting in the shadows. We all know the story of what happened next, but what we didn’t know was just how many twists and turns the CTB Story would take.

“I kept it going, even if there were only a few kids. Them showing up kept me going too.”

 – Heather Kratz, Associate Artistic Director

Heather And Students 1

(Photo: Heather Kratz, celebrating a successful rehearsal with CTB Dancers before the pandemic  Credit: CTB Staff member) 

It’s June 2020. Like other organizations, staff meetings had moved online. CTB had over 100 children signed up for summer dance camp which we swiftly moved online to create a virtual experience that would reach even more children. The challenges of adapting the CTB Method to the virtual world were vast, the biggest of these being the use of live music. However, through the ingenuity and problem solving of musicians Patrick Padgett and Tony Kieraldo, children from Denver to Nayarit, Mexico had high-quality live music playing through their devices daily while participating in dance class, yoga class, and fitness challenges. The story of the summer of 2020 is portrayed beautifully in a poem written by CTB Student Diana. 

Through these hard times,
you have kept us alive and well,
you have inspired and distracted.

Through these hard times,
you have provided a source,
to where we can go to release,
you’ve helped release passion and creativity.

Through these hard times,
it’s been difficult to understand,
to relax, to control, to manage.
That is why we would like to thank you for helping us,
through these hard times.

It’s September 2020. CTB staff is unified in their mission, we must keep kids engaged, inspired, and curious through our classes. Classes were being pre-recorded for the first time in CTB history. Hannah Finnegan, Program Manager, had become a Zoom wizard using the tools to engage children through spotlighting and personalized feedback. Heather Kratz was creating a brand new early learners’ curriculum while analyzing the angle of the sun during the day to create lighting for her videos. Tracy Straus, CTB Founder and Artistic Director, was zooming into homes in Colorado from New Jersey while propping her camera up on books. The staff had to quickly learn how to use this new technology. A few months later, living rooms were being transformed into professional-quality studios complete with sound equipment, editing capabilities, and green screens. 

 “CTB this year was definitely different, but I had so much fun learning our dances. I love being in class because it helps me feel calm, and feel good and confident.”
-CTB Virtual Student


(Photo: Tracy Straus, Bashir Page Sanders, Tony Kieraldo, and students from Harris Park Elementary School on film day for Rocky Mountain PBS. Credit: CTB Staff Member)

It’s June 2021. By now CTB had created six online courses! With the filming and editing skills acquired from the past year, a new opportunity to partner with Rocky Mountain PBS to create an original series presented itself.  Filming began with the teaching staff back in full force using dance to take the children of Colorado on a journey to the stars. A van was packed with lighting, sound, and backdrops and the crew headed out to film with children in communities all over Colorado. The episodes aired every Sunday morning in January and February 2022 and were more popular than “Curious George”!

“At CTB it’s completely about the team. You can’t do it alone. It’s about what the group can create. The class experience is the best way groups can collaborate; you cannot have art without the ensemble. This is group energy used for good.”
– Tracy Straus, Founder and Artistic Director

It’s August 2021. Classes are back in person and CTB’s mission to provide programs that improve children’s physical health and well-being and inspire them to believe in themselves is more necessary than ever. Returning to providing our in-person classes has shown the depth of the trauma experienced by children who are behind not only academically but also socially. Through engaging dance classes, CTB teaching artists are rebuilding the aspects of childhood that the school closures took away by creating an environment for children to heal through meaningful connection and the power of dance. 

“Thank you for bringing dance to our school and helping us find ourselves, our love, our joy, our positivity, and our expression. And simultaneously helping us lose our fears, inhibitions, worries, and stress.”
– Nancy Richey, Harris Park Elementary School Principal.

It’s April 2022. Two years have passed, and the collateral damage of the pandemic has left the world weathered. Things continue to change, CTB continues to adapt, and we dance on, bringing light, love, and pure joy to thousands of children and their communities.

Vail Dance Festival

(Photo: Founder Tracy Stause dances with CTB Dancers at the Vail Dance Festival.  Credit: Christopher Duggan)

Story submitted by: Celebrate the Beat