Mission & History
The School provides a nurturing and structured environment that encourages individuality, creative expression and a respect and appreciation for the art of dance. Students attain life skills such as a strong work ethic, discipline, respect for instructors and peers, poise, self-assurance and an awareness of the physical body through their dance training. Performance opportunities are offered through the school’s own programming and in collaboration with NC Dance Theatre and other arts organizations in the community. These opportunities enable the student to apply the skills they are learning in class to choreographed works and to experience firsthand the scope of professional productions.
Outreach programs at the School offer at-risk children and interested young men the chance to experience dance through scholarship assistance. Partial scholarship aid is offered to students who meet the requirements for talent, level of commitment and financial need. The School promotes and encourages cultural diversity in its student body, faculty and programming choices.
The North Carolina Dance Theatre School of Dance strives to provide students who are interested in a professional career in dance the technique and training that will enable them to pursue their goals. Whether they ultimately pursue a career as a professional dancer, choreographer, teacher or arts administrator, the mission of the School is to assist these students in achieving their goals either with NC Dance Theatre or with another professional company. Additionally, the School’s mission is to maintain the same high standards and level of training for those students interested in simply experiencing the joy and benefits of dance training.
The North Carolina Dance Theatre School of Dance opened its doors at 800 N. College Street in September of 1993. By September of 1997, two satellite locations had been developed at Spirit Square and Charlotte Country Day School and there were 150 students registered. Within a year, the school doubled the size of its student body and began offering a four-week summer program to serious local ballet students. By 1999, another satellite opened at the Cannon School in Concord with a brand new dance studio built to the school’s specifications. By then, the school was divided into five divisions with levels added to accommodate the growth in registrants. An Open Division was also successfully launched.
A boy’s scholarship class was developed to offer boys ages 8-12 the opportunity to try dance in an all male environment. By offering the class for no charge, parents were more willing to let their sons try dance. A Boys Program was launched in 2002 as an extension of the Boy’s Scholarship class. Once a young male dancer has completed the curriculum in the scholarship class, he continues on to more challenging classes in boy’s ballet, tap and jazz.
An outreach program known as CityDance was also developed thanks to the generosity of Price Waterhouse Coopers, who helped to sponsor 10 at-risk children ages 9-11 whose interest in dance was recognized by dance educators from the public schools. These children were enrolled in classes at the school and were provided with transportation, dance attire and complimentary tickets to Dance Theatre’s performances. This wonderful program brightened children’s lives and broadened their horizons.
In the summer of 2000, the school offered its first six-week national Summer Intensive program with 97 students participating from all over the U.S. These dancers were accepted by audition only and were housed at Queens College or with host families. Some of the biggest names in the dance world such as, Violette Verdy, Marianna Tcherkassky and Terry Orr were brought in as guest faculty. The School placed advertisements in Dance Magazine for the first time and national recognition was no longer a dream, but a reality. It was a resounding success and the program continued to expand in the subsequent year. The audition tour grew in scope to include 22 cities and 650 applicants. More faculty were hired and the class schedule stretched from 9 AM to 5:30 PM with three levels, pas de deux and men’s classes and a final performance at the Booth Theatre. Three hundred students were accepted and 143 attended from 15 states, as well as from Puerto Rico, Germany and Mexico. The program continues to grow with students representing 24 states and several foreign countries and 11 guest faculty joining the school’s own superb year-round faculty.
In 2001, School directors developed the Pre-Professional Division for those students who demonstrated the talent and commitment level required to pursue a professional career in dance. To date, 50 students are participating in the three levels of the Pre-Professional Division and are currently reaping the benefits of this more rigorous program. Graduates of the school are now employed by professional companies such as New York City Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Houston Ballet, North Carolina Dance Theatre, Atlanta Ballet, Ballet Oklahoma and Melissa Thodos & Dancers in Chicago among others. Other graduates are studying on scholarships at prestigious university dance programs such as Indiana University, Florida State and Butler University. Others have been offered full scholarships and the opportunity to study at such prestigious schools as Houston Ballet School, National Ballet of Canada, Miami City Ballet School, Boston Ballet School, Pacific Northwest Ballet School and San Francisco Ballet School.
The NC Dance Theatre Student Ensemble was established in 1996 and is a performing group of serious young dancers from the Pre-Professional Division of the school. Membership is by invitation only and requires a serious commitment of time and effort. Each year the group learns between four to six new ballets that are performed throughout the Charlotte area and at regional dance festivals. In September of 2001, the Student Ensemble successfully passed an adjudication process in Atlanta, GA and was accepted as a performing company to the Southeastern Regional Ballet Association (SERBA). By 2004, the student company was awarded the highest rank in the SERBA organization that of Honor Company. Each year the students perform at the SERBA Festival, which is held in a different southeastern city annually, proudly representing NC Dance Theatre and its affiliated school. By 2003, an additional student company was formed, the NC Dance Theatre Junior Ensemble comprised of Pre-Professional Division students at the Intermediate/Advanced Level. In 2006, the senior ensemble was renamed, NC Dance Theatre Repertory Ensemble, to accommodate yet another student company, the new and younger 11-14, year old NC Dance Theatre Student Ensemble.
Over 100 students participate annually in NC Dance Theatre’s production of Nutcracker. Several of the most advanced dancers in the school earn roles alongside the corps de ballet members of NC Dance Theatre and are asked to tour with the company. Each season students are also offered the opportunity to perform in the annual Spring Student Performances at the Booth Theater at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center.
Another realization in the fall of 2001 was the culmination of a two year long endeavor with the UNC-Charlotte to offer a professional training certificate in dance. Students can earn an undergraduate certificate in ballet, equivalent to 16 elective credit hours, while pursuing a university degree. This allows the serious dance student the opportunity to train, rehearse and perform with a professional school and company while achieving their academic goals. NC Dance Theatre is the only professional dance company in the Southeast with an affiliated school that offers this kind of certification in conjunction with a major university. Applicants from all over the United States audition for the program. Those accepted to the program study at the highest level in the school, four days a week and perform with the Student Ensemble as well as in NC Dance Theatre’s Nutcracker and other full-length ballets. It is a challenging program that augments their studies at school whether they are university dance majors or are pursuing another type of degree.
A Trainee program was also initiated in 2001 for talented students from around the country who have either graduated form high school or are completing their education by correspondence. Trainees are offered the opportunity to study at the highest level in the school, perform with the Student Ensemble and learn the repertory of NC Dance Theatre 2. They are cast in corps de ballet roles in NC Dance Theatre’s Nutcracker and go on tour and perform with the company as needed. This is a wonderful opportunity for pre-professional dancers to see what life is like for a full-time professional dancer. This also gives them a chance to be considered for future employment by the directors of NC Dance Theatre and NC Dance Theatre 2. This trainee program was expanded in 2003 to include apprentices to the professional company as well. Both trainees and apprentices train in the Conservatory Program in the School and audition for these positions during the yearly Summer Intensive national audition tour.
The Conservatory Program was developed in 2004 for the serious dance student who wishes to incorporate their dance classes with their academics. Ballet technique classes are offered each morning with supplementary classes in Pilates, modern forms, and composition. Regular technique classes in ballet, pointe, pas de deux, variations, modern and jazz are then attended in the afternoon. Students enrolled in the Conservatory Program also perform with the NC Dance Theatre Repertory Ensemble and in regularly scheduled school performances. Academics are offered through the Indiana University High School correspondence program, a highly accredited college preparatory program. Students work on their studies before and after their dance classes each day utilizing the various textbooks and on-line programs that Indiana University offers.