One local Tucson couple was recently awarded a grant of more than $11,000 from The Arizona Commission of the Arts towards their non-profit ballet studio.

Joey Rodgers and Soleste Lupu were high school sweethearts who shared a common love for the art of ballet.

Recognizing a need to bring this art form to South Tucson, they opened their non-profit dance studio in August of 2007.

Co-founders of Dancing in the Streets Arizona, Rodgers and Lupu both cultivated a passion for ballet while growing up in Tucson.

Their teenage meeting was a match made in heaven.

“We met in ballet school in Tucson, so we already shared that background,” Lupu said.

Beyond their artistic affinity, these Tucson natives aimed to engage more individuals in one of the world’s oldest dance forms.

“Folklorico and mariachi were abundant, but classical ballet studios were lacking.”

“There really wasnt anything, especially on the South Side of town,” she noted. “There was a lot of folklorico, a lot of mariachi. No classical ballet studios.”

Following separate journeys away from Tucson, Rodgers and Lupu eventually returned, equipped to transform their vision into reality.

However, early challenges emerged as they sought to convince city leaders of the necessity for such a business.

“The more we encountered ‘no,’ the more our determination grew,” Rodgers explained. “Every ‘no’ became a missed opportunity for kids in this area to embrace ballet.”

“The more we heard more of no, the more it inspired us,” they said. “We heard no and thought that was a missed opportunity for some kids down here to actually want to do ballet,’ Rogers continued.

In 2007, the couple’s dream finally materialized.

“We reunited in 97 and we got married in 2007. With the gifts from our wedding, that was our startup money,” Lupu recalled.

Entering their sixteenth year of ballet in South Tucson, the couple has their sights set on the next objective.

“We would love to create a professional ballet company for the city of South Tucson,” they said. “But after sixteen years, were still trying to grow.”