BY MADISON LING
Natalie Mizell, the owner and Artistic Director of The Ballet and Performing Arts Centre, has pursued dance as something that has “always [been] a passion of [hers].” Mizell attended Meredith College, followed by the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, to attain a degree in dance, transferring to UNCG to be a part of a bigger dance department. After graduation, her immediate goal was to open a dance school, and that is exactly what she did.
The studio originally opened in Lewisville, with only about 1000 square feet, before moving to its present 5500-square-foot location five years later. The space with two studios, soon to be three, and high ceilings is conducive to the ballet choreography that the studio emphasizes, along with the other styles they offer: pointe, jazz, tap, hip-hop, contemporary, variations, and partnering. Progressing Ballet Technique and American Ballet Theatre techniques are two types of specialized training that BPAC offers, in addition to their regular classes. With these two classes, the studio really tries to teach students how to dance in a way that is safe for their bodies.
The five teachers at the studio are all classically trained, whether that be with a degree from a university or through professional training. They all work together to train the students to be well-rounded, technical dancers who can be successful, no matter if they want to dance professionally, get a degree in dance, or even just take classes comfortably in a professional environment. However, the most important aspect of the classes is that all the students have fun and be successful at whatever they want to do.
Mizell considers BPAC her family and wants all the students to know how much it cares about them. She values her relationship with her students highly and knows all the student’s names. She never wants a time to come when she doesn’t know each one of her students. “I think something really special about our studio is there are five of us [teachers] here, and we know every single student taking a class,” said Mizell. “They all become part of the family here.” Her emphasis is on being with the students, and she teaches many classes herself, even with all her responsibilities as the Director. Her title with the dancers has affectionately become “Mom.” The family atmosphere is also fostered by the older dancers, as they take it upon themselves to be mentors for the younger dancers.
Mizell sees students coming back from college and taking time out of their lives to visit the studio again. She sees this as a positive note, demonstrating what a family the students feel that the studio is, after spending years and years of their lives dancing at BPAC.
The competition team is a more recent addition to the studio’s repertoire, growing in the past five years to about thirty to forty students and performing at three local competitions a year. The local competitions are extremely convenient for those families with kids doing many activities all at once. The competition classes are by audition and then require certain core classes. To add to the competition program’s appeal, a graduate of the studio, Megan, has returned to the area to teach the 2nd grade and help choreograph jazz and hip hop for the competition team.
The studio’s performances throughout the year include a winter performance of The Nutcracker, which is by audition, and a spring show that involves a different ballet every year for Act I, followed by a second act that includes all the competition routines, as well as jazz, hip-hop, tap, and contemporary dances.