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CNN Today

Little Girl with a Big Talent for Dance

Aired April 3, 2000 - 1:57 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DONNA KELLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Before we wrap up this hour, we have the remarkable story at this point of a 10-year-old from South Central Los Angeles with a big talent for dancing.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: This is a piece of work. In fact, this young girl is so good she went on a school field trip and came home with a scholarship to the prestigious Dance Theater of Harlem.

CNN's Jennifer Auther has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JENNIFER AUTHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): How does one achieve this? A career in neo-classical ballet. When all you know is this.

Elysse Evans lives in South Central Los Angeles. She has never had any formal dance training, but moves like these led Elysse to be singled out from 8,000 inner-city kids on a field trip last February to see the Dance Theater of Harlem.

ELYSSE EVANS, 10 YEARS OLD: Keith Saunders, he asked for some volunteers to go on stage and do the latest dances, so my teacher convinced me to raise my hand. So I raised my hand and I was chosen, and I went on stage and I just started dancing.

AUTHER: The next thing this 4th-grader, who turned 10 April Fool's Day, remembers...

ELYSSE EVANS: People screaming my name and the announcer said that he was going to give me a tuition scholarship.

ELYSHIA EVANS, ELYSSE'S MOTHER: When she came home and mentioned the scholarship, I told her, "No honey, I think you misunderstood." And I said, "And go and clean your room! It's a mess!"

AUTHER: Keith Saunders saw in Elysse a natural talent, an affinity for movement.

KEITH SAUNDERS, DANCE THEATER OF HARLEM: You know it when you see it. She stood out among a stage full of people. She had a joy about her.

AUTHER (on camera): Andre and Elyshia Evans both say they assume their daughters will go to college. According to Mr. Evans, the only thing that could prevent Elysse from taking the scholarship in New York would be a change in her performance in the classroom.

ANDRE EVANS, ELYSSE'S FATHER: That's the first thing in our family: religion and education. Now, if she don't maintain her grades, she can't do anything.

AUTHER: Elysse gets As. Now this family finds itself fielding requests from the media and major talk shows. They must also raise money to offset costs for Elysse and her grandmother to fly to New York City and live for six weeks this summer.

PASTOR DIANN JOHNSON, ELYSSE'S GRANDMOTHER: I want her to see where a lot of roots for dance and jazz and theater, all of that is all about.

AUTHER: Something not lost on Elysse:

ELYSSE EVANS: I feel very challenged.

AUTHER: Jennifer Auther, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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