Keeping Kids Happy And Healthy During This Time

It is no secret that traumatic events and altered routines can have an impact on children’s mental health. In the midst of our new reality, it is important to create a sense of normalcy for them in order to ease any stress that may be coming up for them during this time.

We have compiled some activities parents can do in order to care for their children’s minds and bodies during this time. We hope you enjoy!


Consistency and structure are very calming. Setting up a daily schedule that caters to all members of the family is important in creating a “new normal”. For example, establish regular meals, bed, and wake-up times.

Breaking down activities into 40, 60- or 90-minute blocks can be helpful for kids. Using a timer for them to track and know where they stand in their day is particularly helpful. Involving your kids in the planning process can give them a sense of control and predictability. Include activities they genuinely enjoy in between chores and schoolwork to make it exciting for them.


Now is more important than ever to keep kids connected to their friends and peers, so they don’t become isolated. Spending time physically apart from each other doesn’t mean we can’t get creative and find ways for kids to remain close. Staying active through extracurricular activities offering Livestream classes is a wonderful way of incorporating routine and connection, TAYB is still offering daily Livestream dance classes. Other ideas include setting up virtual playdates, coordinating online gaming time, and hosting a virtual movie night, which are all ways of keeping them connected!


Incorporating mindful practices into your child’s daily routine can help calm their anxiety and build healthy coping skills. Whether they do it for 5 minutes, or an hour, taking time to be present and connect with their sense of self will have a positive impact on their over well-being. Headspace has a great library of meditations curated just for kids! Also, this short article from The New York Times offers a simple breathing exercise that can even be turned into an art activity by following these instructions!


Making a physical activity part of your children’s routine is also great for mental health and allows for quality family time. Whether it happens outside or inside, movement produces endorphins which will result in happier kids! For ideas on how to keep kids active while staying indoors, check out our last post.

Thomas Armour Youth Ballet is committed to providing resources and connection and movement opportunities for our students and their families through what we know best: DANCE! To learn more about our livestream classes click here.

5 Ways We’re Preventing Zoombombing

As schools and businesses across the world are impacted by having to social distance, Thomas Armour Youth Ballet is among many turning to Zoom to continue its programs. So many of our families have given positive feedback on the efforts we’ve made to maintain consistency for their children. However, aside from the technological challenges of “retooling the factory” to deliver online classes, we have to remain on the cutting edge to prevent new challenges, including “Zoombombing.”


Zoombombing is a practice that has come about in the past few weeks. Internet trolls have been entering Zoom meetings and taking advantage of the program’s feature to share their screen. They often display inappropriate images, hate symbols, and shout expletives. TAYB is researching this development and following guidelines released by Zoom and organizations including the Anti-Defamation League. Thanks to these resources, we’ve put the following precautions in place.


This practice is key! The vast majority of Zoombombings have taken place when organizations post a Meeting ID and entry link someplace that can be accessed by the general public. Since day one of our test classes, we have only shared that information with the TAYB family. We share the schedule for our live classes on our website, but without the Meeting ID or entry link, it’s impossible to gain access to these classes. In the reported cases, there is no evidence of hacking to enter these meetings, just mishandled information.


Often during classes, the teacher will need to share their screen. This is a valuable tool that can be difficult to use during in-person classes. Through this feature, the teacher can share video clips to provide examples of an exercise or variation. We have manipulated the settings so that only the Zoom “host” has access to this feature. That means that even if someone gained access to the class, they would have no way of broadcasting inappropriate online images or videos.

Ms. Alvarez teaching her Advanced class.


TAYB has structured its live class schedule to allow teachers gaps between their classes. This means that they will have time to join a class five to ten minutes before the start time. With the feature to join a class before the teacher has joined disabled, someone with the ability to remove Zoombombers will always be in the class. If you’re trying to join a class early and receive a notification that you cannot join until the host has joined, wait a few minutes.


Zoom is used for meetings in every industry. Often during these meetings, teams will get together to share work and review it together. You can use file transfer to make a document, image, or video available for download to anyone in the Zoom meeting. Zoombombers have been abusing this feature to spread viruses and inappropriate content. To prevent this from happening, TAYB has disabled this feature altogether. We will only use text and email to distribute files.


The worst-case scenario is that TAYB’s class information somehow falls into the wrong hands. We are training the TAYB teachers to be confident with the Zoom controls so that they can remove any Zoombombers. We have made it so that when a participant is removed, they are unable to join again.


Like any new technology, we must take the right precautions. We are not waiting for Zoombombing to be sorted out by Zoom’s team. With the above steps currently in place, we are coaching all of TAYB’s teachers to make sure they know how to remove Zoombombers and prevent others from re-entering. While the odds of Zoombombing are extremely low, the risk is too great to handle this lightly.

See our recorded classes and a full schedule of our live classes here.

Staying Inside: How to Keep Your Kids Active

Keeping kids active when we can’t go outside can seem difficult when there are so many other ways of staying entertained with devices, games, movies, and toys. However, now more than ever, we should all make an effort to make sure we get our daily dose of movement!

Physical activity helps children stay healthy and happy, and since outdoor activities and group classes are not an option right now, we have some ideas on how to incorporate it into their day!


  • Provide your children with instructions on how to safely take out and put away equipment that they might use (balls, beanbags, etc.).
  • Move any furniture with sharp edges out of the activity area.
  • Make sure your children know that movement is limited in a small space.
  • Anticipate where additional safety measures are needed and apply them.
  • Review any family rules for throwing balls, beanbags, etc., and being active inside the house as you see fit.


  1. Jump Rope- There are so many rhymes that can make jumping rope more than just physical activity! Kids can memorize these and sing along to them. Here are some fun ideas.
  2. Indoor Obstacle Course- Using furniture, or other items that are safe build an obstacle course for your kids. Add in specific mental or physical challenges to keep them guessing. This site takes you step by step on how to create your own using every-day house items!
  3. Animal Races- Hop like a bunny or frog; squat and waddle like a duck; and so on.
  4. Scavenger hunt- Write up clues and hide them around the house. Kids can race to find each clue for a small prize at the end.
  5. Dance- Whether it is freeze dance or a dance party, this is a great way of keeping kids active and having fun. We are currently offering pre-recorded dance classes and live virtual classes through Zoom. Click here to learn more!

To take a look at some free pre-recorded dance lessons visit our YouTube channel.

Student Spotlight: Kayla Thomas Awarded Third Place at Miami International Ballet Competition

We are so proud to highlight our student Kayla Thomas. During her tome with Thomas Armour Youth Ballet she has performed the role of Clara, toy dolls, and the waltz of the flowers in the annual production of the Nutcracker. She has also performed advanced classical works like Paquita and La Bayadere in our annual spring show. Her experience at Miami International Ballet Competition was a special one and we are excited to share her accomplishments.

She attended Miami International Ballet Competition and performed the Gamzatti variation from La Bayadere, coached by lead faculty Mariana Alvarez. She also performed a contemporary solo choreographed by Maytte Subriana.

Kayla won 3rd place and received scholarships to the trainee program at National Ballet Academy in Denver, an artistic scholarship at Kirov Academy in Washington D.C., Soki Ballet International in Kenichi Soki, the year-round program at the Asia Ballet Academy in Malaysia, and summer intensive at Ballet Academy West in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Here’s a little note from Kayla herself: 

“Miami International Ballet Competition was my first competing in ballet. It was a great experience. All the ballet teachers, master classes, and set an amazing energy throughout the studios and stage. It helped me live through my dancing. I thank my ballet family at Thomas Armour Youth Ballet for teaching me and preparing me with everything I know now. I am blessed to have such a wonderful studio filled with work incredible work ethic and most of all love.” 

To learn more about receiving training like Kayla click here. 


What you’re supporting on Miami’s day of giving

Thursday, November 21st is Miami’s biggest day of giving and we want you to get involved. Every year The Miami Foundation hosts Give Miami Day , a 24-hour fundraising event. Organizations across the city raise funds for their incredible missions that make a huge impact on our community. Throughout the day there will be prizes all organizations are eligible for and a percentage of every donation given will be matched. Here are the programming and projects you’ll be supporting if you choose the Thomas Armour Youth Ballet this Give Miami Day.


Quality after-school programs at an extremely low cost? We know what you’re thinking…..not possible. Thanks to the support of the Children’s Trust we expanded our four sites that once just danced classes after school to a full after-school program with reading, homework assistance, dance lessons, and emotional literacy. We want to continue to build on this programming across four sites and you can support that by participating on Give Miami Day.


Scholarships are offered at the main site for dance training at the main site during the school year and for summer intensives. All scholarships are based on financial need and are given on a sliding scale. Families are able to pay what they can rather than cutting back on valuable training for their children.


The Nutcracker is a huge part of who we are and Miami’s history. Our production of The Nutcracker is no ordinary production of the holiday classic. This Nutcracker is the longest-running Nutcracker production in Miami, it is the most diverse production of the Nutcracker in the city, and we do not charge families to participate in it. Students from all of our sites audition for the performance and aren’t charged a fee for rehearsals, costumes, makeup, etc. This makes participating accessible to everyone. This is what makes our Nutcracker so unique.


Our after-school program is for children ages 5-11 years old. What happens once they age out of the program? We offer a scholarship at our main site to continue quality dance training.


Every year we provide room and board to students attending summer intensives in New York City. Attending summer intensives at professional companies can be very expensive for families. To make this once-in-a-lifetime experience available we cut the cost by offering this program.


In order to provide more programming, we are renovating the space and adding THREE more studios! This project will begin in 2020 but if you would like to make a contribution toward our capital campaign it’s never too early.

We hope after reading about our current programming and future plans you feel excited to make your contribution on Give Miami Day on Thursday, November 21st.


Meet the Team: Employee Highlight Series

Thomas Armour Youth Ballet’s team members are the fabric of our organization. For this reason, we have decided to highlight members of the team in our blog to learn a little more about them and what they like about working at Thomas Armour Youth Ballet.
Our first employee spotlight is Jeannette Othello. She is a site counselor at our after-school program at Morningside K-8 Academy in Little Haiti. She has been working with us since the beginning of our after-school program expansion and we are so lucky to still have her on our team. We hope you enjoy this little Q & A!
Q: Can you introduce yourself?
A: My name is Jeannette Othello I am a student counselor with Thomas Armour Youth Ballet at the Little Haiti location at Morningside K-8 academy. I’ve been with the program for five years.
Q: What’s your favorite memory at the program?
A: My favorite memory is from a student I had named Alex Ramos. He was very active and he kept me on my toes but in the end, we had a great bond.
Q: What makes the work meaningful to you?
A: The fact that I get to come here every day and having the opportunity to work with each child and putting a smile on their faces even on their bad days.
Q: Who is an employee at the program you enjoy working with?
A: I enjoy working with Judith Thomas (Site Supervisor) she’s very organized and she’s very universal when it comes to dealing with others.
Q: What are the three traits that define you as an employee?
A: I am self-disciplined and flexible.
Q: What is the best advice you’ve received?
A: Do your best in whatever you do.
Q: What motivates you in the morning?
A: My children.
To learn more about the program Jeannette works at click here. 

Thomas Armour Youth Ballet Receives National Accredidation

We are proud to announce that Thomas Armour Youth Ballet has received accreditation, After a three-year self-evaluation process through The Accrediting Commission for Community and Precollegiate Arts Schools (ACCPAS).


ACCPAS was created by the Council of Arts Accreditation in 2000. Their purpose is to accredit schools providing non-degree instruction in the arts to children, youth and adults.


Accreditation validates the quality of the dance instruction at TAYB and confirms the professionalism and value of all aspects of the organization. During the evaluation process all levels of management, leadership, strategic planning, community outreach, vision, and mission are reviewed.

“The process of taking a hard, detailed look at every aspect of our organization was grueling but highly rewarding,” said Executive Artistic Director Ruth Wiesen. “To be recognized nationally for the quality of our programs and dance instruction is a source of great pride for everyone in the TAYB family.”

“Accreditation provides a framework for future planning and accountability,” said board President Daniel Lewis.  “The observations of outside evaluators and their advice will be invaluable as TAYB moves forward.”


Thomas Armour Youth Ballet is the oldest school of ballet in Miami, founded as The Miami Conservatory by Thomas Armour in 1949.  What started as a scholarship program at the Conservatory for a handful of students in 1987 has grown to encompass TAYB’s main site in South Miami and four neighborhood outreach centers where nearly 1,000 students study dance, are given opportunities to perform, including in the region’s longest-running production of The Nutcracker. Students in the neighborhood centers receive reading, math, music and art instruction, as well as wrap-around services, in addition, to dance every school day and throughout the summer in an all-day camp.


TAYB will be expanding its main location and class offerings in the fall of 2020. There will be three new dance studios and a wider variety of dance forms offered.


In addition to accreditation from ACCPAS, TAYB is licensed as an after-school care facility by the State of Florida’s Department of Children and Families. The Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs helps to fund programming in five neighborhoods. TAYB’s four after-school programs are supported by the Children’s Trust of Miami-Dade County, Miami Foundation, and other foundations and individual donors.

Spring Concert Blog Series: Aesha Ash


In preparation for our Spring Concert on April 6th and 7th, we’ve chosen the graceful Aesha Ash as the next artist of the 1980s to present to spotlight.


Aesha Ash started dancing at the age of 5 years old in Rochester, NY because her older sister wanted to dance. Her sister moved on to cheerleading, but Aesha fell in love with jazz and tap, dreaming of performing on Broadway. As she got older, she excelled in competitions, but they caused her a lot of anxiety. When she decided to move away from competing, she found her love for ballet.

That love, however, came with the pain of both overt and implicit expressions of racism. Aesha was a black girl in the predominantly white world of ballet in a suburban area, which made her a target for ridicule. At the age of 14, she moved to New York City to dance at the School of American Ballet which led to her entry to the New York City Ballet. While dancing with them, her father and sister both died of cancer.

Aesha Ash posing for the Swan Dreams Project.


Aesha Ash showing girls in her hometown of Rochester her pointe.

Aesha Ash showing girls in her hometown of Rochester her pointe.

Aesha attended the School of American Ballet, then was corps de ballet in the New York City Ballet. She then went on to become a soloist with the Béjart Ballet in Switzerland for two years before returning to the US, joining the Alonzo King LINES Ballet in San Francisco. She performed with Alonzo King LINES Ballet for three years until her retirement in 2008. Over the course of her dance career, she had a documentary made about her and performed as a dance double in feature films.



After her retirement from dancing, Aesha wanted to use her platform to expose young African American girls to ballet. She did so by creating the Swan Dreams Project, a photography series of Ash dancing in low-income neighborhoods and the reactions of locals. According to the Swan Dreams Project’s mission, “Through the use of imagery and my career as a ballet dancer, I want to help change the demoralized, objectified and caricatured images of African-American women by showing the world that beauty is not reserved for any particular race or socio-economic background.” In response to the adversity she faced in the ballet world as a black young woman, the Swan Dreams Project was created to challenge the stereotype of what a ballet dancer looks like.

For more information about TAYB’s Annual Spring Concert click here. 





Spring Concert Blog Series: Prince


In preparation for our Spring Concert on April 6th and 7th, we’ve chosen Prince Rogers Nelson as the next artist of the 1980s to present to the spotlight.

Prince for V Magazine in 2013.


Prince is known for his flamboyant style and emotional ballads. Both of his parents were musicians and he wrote his first song at seven years old. He grew up extremely poor, once saying in an interview that as a child he would stand outside of McDonald’s just to smell the food; at the time of his death in 2016, his net worth was around $200 million.

Prince released his debut album at 19 years old, on which he played all 27 instruments. His philosophy toward music was unique. He disliked working on a piece for too long and constantly wanted to move forward in his music. He claimed to record a new song every day, resulting in an impressive breadth of work.


Prince performing Purple Rain

Prince released a total of 39 albums in his lifetime and one posthumous album. He was a musical force to be reckoned with. In addition to those released albums, there are rumored to be 50 full-length albums of unreleased music in a vault at his private residential compound, Paisely Park.

While he produced the majority of his work as a solo artist, he formed several short-lived bands throughout his career. As a skilled instrumentalist, vocalist, producer, and writer, his work extended to tens of other artists aside from his own impressive discography.


Many artists cite Prince as an influence. He helped shape the sound of 80’s funk through his use of synthesizers and drum machines. Over 50 hit songs by other artists credit him as a songwriter, and he wrote even more under at least four pseudonyms.

It can be argued that Prince’s style was as influential as his music; his outfits and makeup disrupted gender norms and expectations. His style was so key to his artistic persona that he employed ten live-in tailors at Paisely Park. After his death, figures from musical artists to then-president Barrack Obama expressed their admiration and sympathy for the late performer.

For more information about TAYB’s Annual Spring Concert click here. 


Alumnus Jasmine Ward’s Performance On The Ellen Show

Jasmine Ward was a student at Thomas Armour Youth Ballet for a decade. Receiving training at the school and participating in annual productions of the Nutcracker. We are proud to highlight all her successes. Read more to see what she’s up to now!


I grew up training at the Thomas Armour Youth Ballet while also attending New World School of the Arts and performing in the annual Nutcrackers. I then graduated from Butler University in Indianapolis and attended various summer intensives, including ABT New York, Joffrey Chicago, and Complexions Contemporary Ballet.


Since moving to New York two years ago, I’ve danced with the New York Theatre Ballet, Brooklyn Ballet, and Ballet Next. I’ve also played Pecola Breedlove in the Arden Theatre’s Company’s production of “Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye”. I audition often and take dance, voice, and acting classes.


I was recommended for the Future music video as a result of the people I’ve met while auditioning. All we knew was that the music video was for a major hip-hop artist. It wasn’t until we were on the location that it was revealed it was for Future.


The Ellen Show was unexpected. I received a call just one day before flying to LA, and after arriving, the other dancer and I had little time to prepare as we were going to shoot the following day. However, the performance was based on the music video, so we had an idea of what to expect and fortunately, we both kept our costumes. The day of, we had a very short rehearsal, then the cameras started rolling. It all went by very fast, but I enjoy every second of it!

Jasmine is currently working on more projects that we look forward to sharing soon!

To learn more about what our TAYB alumni are up to click here to view our Alumni Update.