Carefully, dressed in their pastel dance tutus, the three little girls of Ethiopian origin rehearse their basic positions and perfect their plies. These three children are part of a special project at Hasadna - the Jerusalem Conservatory of Music and Dance on Rehov Emek Refaim that provides full scholarships in music and ballet for 30 Ethiopian Israeli children. In its third year, the project hasn't had an easy time, according to Conservatory director, Lena Nemirovsky. "Last year, other parents would come and complain that the Ethiopians were coming late to class and that it was disruptive," she said. "For us, it goes without saying that when a lesson is called for six it starts at six," she continues. "But for them it's not like that. 'Ethiopian time' is different. We had to work hard, have many talks with the parents and the children, but now they come exactly on time. Now, other parents come up to me and say, 'How wonderful that they're here.' If at first it was a little new having Ethiopian kids and parents around, now they're part of the scenery. It's so wonderful." Nemirovsky is excited as she talks about the Conservatory's Ethiopian program, which she believes is the first such program in the country. "You should see the parents' faces at the concerts at the end of the year," she says. "They're full of pride and admiration. It's different for people who are used to it. For the Ethiopians, it was something [that was] unattainable. And suddenly, their child is doing it, playing piano on stage." Conservatory artistic director, Ronit Berman, who coordinates the project, adds, "Yesterday a single mother of five girls, four of whom are in the project, told me that two of her daughters returned from their first ballet lessons with their eyes lit up. They immediately began to dance and show her what they had learned." Berman also tells of a 10-year-old ballet student who gave up the annual class trip last year because it conflicted with the dress rehearsal for the end-of-the-year recital. One gifted violin student was chosen by Michael Gayzler, one of the world's top violin teachers, to be his student this year. Berman notes that belonging to the music and dance community has given the children a sense of self-confidence that contributes not only to their own achievements, but to their families and the entire Ethiopian community as well. She concludes, "The Conservatory sees this project as a long-term relationship and commitment to the Ethiopian community in Jerusalem. We would like to see more Ethiopian musicians and dancers enrolled in higher education institutions and integrated in the professional artistic world. This will be possible only by escorting and supporting the students of this project, both professionally and personally, throughout their years of study."

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