NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – Ballet Virginia just kicked off the inaugural season of their new company, bringing professional classical ballet to Hampton Roads.
Classical ballet companies are staples in major metropolitan areas like New York, Boston and Chicago. But can a classical company not only survive but thrive in Hampton Roads? Ballet Virginia says yes.
The popularity of classical ballet has skyrocketed in America over the past decade, allowing new professional companies, like Ballet Virginia, a solid shot at success. The company is directly tied to the ballet school located in Ghent.
The successful school was in the process of opening a second location in Virginia Beach when they ran into a problem. They needed qualified teachers to fill the new positions. They needed more professional ballerinas. Dancers of the caliber the artistic directors expected are not easy to come by outside of major cities. The solution? Bring the dancers to them by starting a professional company.
Ballet Virginia hired 10 full time dancers from all over the country, with benefits. Aside from performing, the dancers also teach at the schools.
“It’s so important to see what they can look up to, and see what it’s supposed to look like,” explained company member Isabel Cary.
Hiring dancers full time like this is uncommon, even many top ballet companies don’t pay their dancers year round.
Before Ballet Virginia, one would have to drive at least two hours to see professional classical ballet. With more than 400 students and a company, Ballet Virginia is a prime example of how much ballet has grown in America.
“It’s completely had an eruption, which is amazing,” said Cary. “I think social media has helped with that because it’s all of a sudden; it is more accessible. They’re on their Instagram, they’re on their Facebook, and they see these beautiful dancers.”
Another contributing factor to the art form’s increased popularity, dancer’s are increasingly appreciated as athletes.
“Bringing that athleticism to ballet has made a huge impact,” said Cary.
“I dance because it’s a challenge,” explained company member Corrick Jones from Atlanta. “I played basketball. I ran track. But the challenge that I have with myself everyday to like get better is not like anything else.”
Another company member, Casey Shepard, grew up in Chesapeake. She says she’s grateful to be able to share her passion with her community. “I’m really looking forward to this year and to future years to be able to share the art form that I love most with the people in the community I love most.”
This season’s upcoming performances by Ballet Virginia are,
- “The Nutcracker” at Sandler Center, December 18-22, 2019
- “Diversity in Dance” at the Attucks Theater, February 28-29, 2020
- “Sleeping Beauty” at Sandler Center, April 4-5, 2020
- “Illuminations” at Old Dominion University Theater, May 29, 2020