Ballet academy

Charlotte Ballet Academy does Safety Dance – in a parking lot | WFAE 90.7

The other day, Kati Mayo was looking across the parking lot next to the Charlotte Ballet on North Tryon Street. It was early in the morning. A light breeze blew through the air.

“And it took my breath away, how beautiful it was,” said Charlotte Ballet Academy’s artistic coordinator.

She was, of course, referring to the dancers performing in unison in that parking lot – not the concrete or lined parking spaces.

The Charlotte Ballet Academy, which provides dance training to around 400 students ages 4 to adult, has taken to the pavement in recent weeks to allow for in-person instruction during the coronavirus shutdown.

And it’s become a public art form for anyone who catches a glimpse of it.

Even though ballet lessons seem to be considered a form of entertainment or education, the Academy is classified as a fitness center.

And because not all North Carolina gyms and fitness centers can open until the state enters Phase 3 of Gov. Roy Cooper’s reopening plan, the Academy has been closed since March. The move to Phase 3 has been delayed twice by Cooper as the number of coronavirus cases has remained at a consistently high number in recent weeks.

Credit Kelsey Kline / Courtesy Charlotte Ballet


Courtesy of Charlotte Ballet

Another view of the parking class.

The Academy has been providing virtual instruction via Zoom and a library of pre-recorded lessons since closing, but for many students that was still not enough.

“When we heard that Phase 3 had been delayed, that’s when we realized we needed to bring the kids in – especially the advanced and intermediate dancers – we needed to bring them in person from one way or another,” Mayo said. “We knew we couldn’t be in the studio. That’s when the idea of ​​being in our parking lot was born.

The idea actually took a lot of planning and preparation. The Academy provides individual bars and squares of Marley floors spaced throughout the parking lot for each of the approximately 14 students allowed in each class. Plans had to be changed to account for the inability to cross the parking lot or physically interact with other dancers – and to account for frequent breaks for students who wear masks while dancing as the Summer heat warms up every morning.

Classes are only in the morning for intermediate and advanced students, and it worked.

“Everyone is hot and we’re wearing masks and taking multiple mask breaks,” Mayo said. “But they were champions. They are great. These kids have been phenomenal.

And it’s something that has drawn attention to those who spy photos of smartly-synced students on the @cltballet Instagram account or who live in neighboring Skyhouse Uptown apartments.

An underground fan wrote on Instagram: “I live next door and loved seeing the students in class! It’s awesome. I rolled out my mat and took a tiny bit of class from afar like Annie in Bridesmaids. Ha ha. Please do not send an invoice. These ballerinas do some tough stuff in class!


Credit Kelsey Kline / Courtesy Charlotte Ballet


Courtesy of Charlotte Ballet

Synchronized dancing can be beautiful, even in a parking lot.

Onlookers looking for a free dance show weren’t overwhelming, however.

“I think because we’re kinda hidden away and not really there, a lot of people, A. don’t know it’s happening, but (B.) also it’s not a place in the city where you would have a lot of people passing by,” Mayo said. “We had a few people from Skyhouse walking their dogs and stopping and watching. And I hope they enjoy it.”

These days, it’s one of the few forms of performance art allowed in our coronavirus world.

As for the Charlotte Ballet company itself, its season has yet to be determined. Digital performances have been posted online through a program called @Home With Charlotte Ballet. And the Charlotte Ballet has created the Resilience Fund for patrons to support the Ballet “through the extreme financial challenges resulting from COVID-19”.

This story originally appeared in WFAE’s weekly arts and entertainment e-newsletter, Tapestry. Subscribe here.