Shoe-perstar: 12-Year-Old Elyssa Banker Is on a Mission For Dancers In Need

Just some of the many dance shoes Elyssa Banker has collected for charity. (courtesy Elyssa Banker)

Elyssa Banker has been dancing at Central Park Dance in Scarsdale, NY, since she was two. At age 12, she needed a bat mitzvah project, and realized that kids less fortunate than her didn't always have access to the supplies they needed. So, she started collecting gently used shoes at her dance studio and her initiative "Dance for a Cause, Not for Applause" was born. A year and a half later, she's collected over 1,000 pairs of ballet, tap, jazz, and pointe shoes for the organization Footloose. Here, she talks about her mission. —Courtney Bowers

Ever since I started dancing, I've loved it. I love expressing my emotions and I feel alive when I dance. It helps me relax, breathe, and just let go of all the drama happening in my life. It's a place where I can be myself.

Elyssa Banker (courtesy Banker)

When I needed to come up with a bat mitzvah project, I started to think about causes I could help. I realized that I dance better when I have the right clothes and shoes to help me, and thought not all kids who want to dance can afford the right attire. Everyone deserves a chance to shine.

I happened to find all these old dance shoes I still had from when I was younger. That's how I came up with the idea to start donating shoes. I called my program "Dance for a Cause, Not for Applause," and asked my studio if I could put a box in the dressing room, where other students could also donate gently worn shoes that no longer fit. Each Sunday, I would bring the donations home and count them. The project started getting really big—bigger than I ever thought it would be. The other dancers at the studio loved it, too.

After some research, I decided to donate all of our collected shoes to the organization Footloose. It's a non-profit founded by former dancer Becca Duberman. She donates dance shoes to aspiring dancers in need all over the country, and understands how important properly fitted footwear is to a dancer's training. Since 2010 the organization has donated over 6,000 pairs of shoes.

Elyssa with some of her collected shoes (courtesy Banker)

I would love for my project to keep expanding. I'm so passionate about making kids happy. Dancing makes me feel strong and confident, and I want that feeling for others. I want other young dancers to know that you can do a lot of good through dance and you can do it now. Don't give up just because you're young.

Help Elyssa out!

To donate your old, gently used dance shoes to Elyssa's initiative, send them to Central Park Dance (450 Central Park Ave. Scarsdale, NY 10583) marked with her name.

Related Articles Around the Web
Dancer to Dancer
Expressions Dance Alliance president Liz Ladley addressing the company (Sabrina Thadani, courtesy Liz Ladley)

Do you dream of running your student dance company or becoming captain of your dance team? Are you a triple threat eager to direct your school's next musical? If you have big ideas and the drive to make them a reality—as well as a strong rapport with your fellow performers—you might be a good fit for a leadership role. But even the most dedicated dancers can stumble during the transition from peer to peer leader. Try these tips to make the most of your tenure at the top.

Keep Reading Show less
Dance Team
Rochelle Mendoza-Axle, Courtesy Stiskin

In today's dance world, versatility is key. It's not enough to be a master of one style—even when they specialize in one area, dancers are frequently asked to fuse multiple genres, or step out of their comfort zone for specific projects. With their wide variety of summer programs, Joffrey Ballet School aims to prepare dancers for the demands of a professional career. We asked five faculty members to share how they do this:

Keep Reading Show less
Sponsored by Joffrey Ballet School

Right now, it seems like the entire world is equal parts obsessed with and thoroughly creeped out by Jordan Peele's Us, the horror film about devilish doppelgängers that's currently rated 94% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

But while the normal human reaction to Us is to hide under the covers for approximately 17 years, "Step Up: High Water" superhero Kendra "K.O." Oyesanya's reaction was to make a totally bananas dance video.

Keep Reading Show less
Dance Videos



Get Dance Spirit in your inbox