EARLY START: The recently opened Academy at Terpsicorps offers a well-rounded roster of classes to dance students and a scholarship program for future dancers who may not otherwise be able to study the art form. Photo by Zaire Kacz
Just this past summer, Terpsicorps Theatre of Dance was turning heads by holding public, outdoor rehearsals for its 2015 show, The Elements. Those high-profile practices may have helped drum up ticket sales, but the choice was also born out of necessity, as the local dance institution had lost its rehearsal space. Behind the scenes, artistic director Heather Maloy was looking for a place where her company could not only rehearse, but where she could also start a full-fledged dance academy. After long months of obtaining the proper permits and some serious renovations, Maloy realized her dream. The Academy at Terpsicorps opened in mid-September at 1501 Patton Ave. — the previous location of nightclubs Spurs and Club 1501 and the El Pobre Mexican Restuarant.
“High ceilings and lots of big open space were definitely requirements,” Maloy says. The school, which features three dance studios, vaulted ceilings, an informal performance space and a gallery-style lobby, serves 100-150 students across a range of ages and abilities.
“Our main focus is ballet,” says Maloy, who teaches that style along with modern dance classes. She also directs the choreography program. The class schedule includes pointe, partnering, men’s class, jazz technique, modern technique, contemporary, hip-hop, tap, creative movement, yoga and Pilates. Students in the preprofessional division take classes five or six days a week, but not every student enrolled at the academy is on the preprofessional track. Maloy is also excited to be able to offer yoga classes for parents at the same time as the creative movement classes for preschool kids. Prenatal and “mommy and me” yoga classes are in the works.
The schedule’s diversity speaks to the need for professional dancers to be well-rounded. “There are no ballet companies really left, unless you go to Russia, where you aren’t going to do anything but classical ballet,” says Maloy. “So if the kids have the desire to be a professional dancer — or even if they don’t have the desire to be a professional dancer — I like to give them a taste of what it would be like to be in a professional company.” Maloy’s background includes studying at the North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem and dancing professionally for 13 years with the North Carolina Dance Theatre. There, she choreographed her first professional work at age 19. The rest of the teachers at Terpiscorps have similar professional experience.
While Terpiscorps has been a registered nonprofit since its inception 13 years ago, the academy will also afford the opportunity to expand into the community. “We want to be able to have a big chunk of our classes that we’re offering to be going to kids who can’t afford it otherwise,” says Maloy. She plans to pursue more grant writing in the coming year, as well as connect with new students through after-school programs at the YWCA and Salvation Army.
“I think what makes our program unique is that typically, when companies and schools do outreach, they go to the community center, but you don’t really get the full dance experience,” Maloy says. “You aren’t in a big beautiful studio, seeing other dancers.” Students participating in the scholarship program will be provided with the dance clothes they need. Through donations and grants, students from lower-income families will be able to receive scholarships ranging from tuition for monthly classes to having a spot in the preprofessional division.
In the spirit of fostering dancers’ growth, recitals take place at the academy. “We’re able to have the kids perform a lot without having to go to the Diana Wortham Theatre or rent a space,” she says. “We’ve already had a showing in here, and there were tons of parents.” Maloy adds that she does have plans to rent the 500-seat theater in May so the preprofessional division students will have the chance to be on the big stage.
While there is still room for growth, Maloy has been pleasantly surprised with the response to the school so far. “This week has been amazing in terms of how many students have been walking through the door,” she says.
For more information, visit terpsicorps.org.