OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — The sound of dancers back in the studio is music to Rachel Hartley's ears.
"This space gives them their freedom, their movement, their positive…their safe places to be,” said Hartley.
Hartley, owner of Heartland Conservatory of Dance, said without the studio, many of her students were unable to not only express themselves through dance, but they were also disconnected from important relationships during the pandemic.
"I think my closest friends are my dance friends and I think I feel most comfortable around them because we have something in common,” said one dancer.
"I love my dance friends because my school friends kind of get me, but I go to dance a lot so I feel like, really close to them," said another dancer.
That's why Hartley knew she not only needed to get kids back in the studio as soon and as safely as possible, but she also needed to bring in some mental health experts to help.
"It's so easy as humans to just focus on what's bad so he was really trying to bring the kids out of that and find what's good about this," said Hartley.
In the mental health seminar, they focused on depression and anxiety as well as the silver linings of the pandemic, like spending more time at home with their dogs or finding a new hobby like baking.
Along with the pandemic, the United States experienced a historic Black Lives Matter movement, something Hartley did not shy away from.
"There is still that barrier there and dance is expensive and you can't go to a park and do it, so trying to find ways to go into the communities and trying to find kids who have that passion," said Hartley.
Kennedy Grace, a dance student, said there is still a long way to go, but is happy to be a part of the change within the world of ballet.
"It makes me happy. Every time I go to a competition and see another person my skin color, it makes me feel empowered and I tell everyone good job. I want to make sure they know they did a great job,” said Grace.
Heartland Conservatory of Dance is located at 2502 South 133rd Plz. For more information on summer camps, go to their website.