T HE BEST OF CHA P EL HI L L
LEFT AND CENT ER Teaching partn ers and faculty. RIGHT M’Liss Dorrance, Caro l Richard and Je nnifer Potts in 1981. BELOW Summ er camp students in the early 1980 s at the school’s 22 9 S. Elliott Rd. loca tion.
pointe of view
A look back on the founding moments of the Ballet School of Chapel Hill By H an n ah Lee | Photography courtesy B al l et School of Chapel Hi l l
IN THIS CONVER SAT I ON Gretchen Vickery founding partner M’Liss Dorrance founding partner Anita Lewis mother and grandmother of former students Emily Ware Baldwin first enrolled student
he Ballet School of Chapel Hill has taught thousands of aspiring dancers of all ages – and still does, as is evident by the line of cars that snakes its way onto busy East Franklin Street every weekday. But the school is more than the lessons it teaches. It resembles a family, one that envelops all who pass through its doors. In honor of the school’s founding in 1980, we spoke to those who were there at the beginning:
Katie Wakeford partner and early student Kate Pendergrass current student and mother of a student GRETCHEN VICKERY M’Liss [Dorrance] and I had a relationship before
the company started because she was the teacher of my two daughters, Katherine D’Urso and Jennifer Vickery, who were heavily into ballet. ANITA LEWIS M’Liss was one of the instructors with Barbara Bounds [at Bounds Dance Studio]. I’m not sure if she was the youngest, but she
was the most motivational and inspirational. GRETCHEN I got a call in the summer of 1980 from M’Liss saying,
“I think I’ve decided to open my own company.” M’LISS DORRANCE My goals for teaching were different, and I felt like
now was the time I had to [open my own studio].