Michaelene Karlen speaks to children at Just Like Home School Aged Child Care in Kasson about dance. Karlen is a professional dancer and a candidate for Miss Minnesota.Photo by Tara Lindquist
By Tara Lindquist
On June 16, Michaelene Karlen, of Kasson will compete to become the next Miss Minnesota. As a part of the competition, Karlen launched her non-profit, Raise the Barre, and has been bringing dance classes to area schools, daycare centers and disability centers for the past several months.
She has presented 68 workshops in 18 different locations. She has also held a benefit concert and done fundraising to provide students with dance scholarships to local dance studios. So far she has awarded seven scholarships and hopes to see that number grow.
Karlen is a professional dancer and has been dancing since she was three. She is a graduate of Kasson-Mantorville High School and is a graduate of Ailey/Fordham University in New York City with a degree in Fine Arts. After graduation Karlen returned home to give back to the communities that gave so much to her as she was growing up. She is currently a professional dancer with Alternative Motion Project Dance Company in Minneapolis and owner/founder of Ballerina Botanicals, an organic skin care line.
Why Raise the Barre?
As a professional dancer, Karlen knows the importance of the fine arts. When it came time to design her platform for the Miss Minnesota competition she knew she wanted it to include her training has a professional dancer to introduce dance to students who might not otherwise have the opportunity to take a dance class.
The mission of Raise the Barre is to provide equal access to professional dance education so that all students will have an equal opportunity to raise their own bar and meet their fullest potential through dance. "The arts are so important," she explained. "I want to make dance inclusive to all students of all abilities." She said she hopes to work with more disability centers as time goes on. "I have a cousin that has special needs so the inclusiveness of dance classes is very important to me."
If crowned Miss Minnesota, Karlen plans on taking her Raise the Barr platform across the state.
And if she's not crowned the next Miss Minnesota? "With or without a title I will continue doing Raise the Barr workshops and raising money to ensure students have the opportunity to receive dance scholarships to local dance studios," she said. "Students who study an art are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievements and three times more likely to be awarded for school attendance," she said. She also pointed out that federal funding for the arts and humanities is around $250 million a year while the National Science Foundation is funded with about $5 billion.
In her several months of teaching, Karlen has learned a lot from her students. She talked about a child in one of her workshops who was homeless. She was told the student didn't really participate in class and was not very motivated. "The student LOVED the workshop," she said. "It was so inspiring to see that child enjoy dance. Karlen said the child left with a smile and "had a really good time."
"If it weren't for Raise the Barre, that student may have never had the opportunity to take a dance class. It was so heartwarming to see."
That is proof that the arts are needed at a grassroots level, Karlen said. The experience intensified her resolve in the mission to provide financial help for students to be inspired - to do and enjoy something they never dreamed of.
If you would like to help Michaelene Karlen continue to award scholarships through Raise the Barre you can make a donation at https://www.michaelenekarlen.com/raise-the-barre.
To follow her journey to become the next Miss Minnesota, follow her Miss South Central Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/RaiseTheBarreMN/