NEWLAND — On Wednesday morning, July 22, a group of girls ages three to six years old, twisted, twirled and silhouetted their way across the dance studio floor of the freshly minted Blue Ridge Performing Arts Academy, which is located at 225 Pineola Street, right in the center of Newland.
The dancers’ form took shape as studio owner and artistic director Kelly Perry led the girls through a series of drills while a stream of classic Disney soundtracks played in the background. It’s the sort of atmosphere that Kelly has dreamed of creating for years, one that not only produces dancers with perfect pirouettes but also builds character and instills confidence in her students.
“I feel super blessed to be able to pursue my dreams from being a little girl and finally being able to open up a studio and teach and have a positive impact on the community by getting kids into the arts. I’m just super excited about that,” Perry said.
A native of Newland, Perry has extensive experience in the world of performing arts. Having studied at Appalachian State University, as well as the Ballet Magnificat Summer Dance Intensive, the Teacher’s Workshop in Jackson, Miss., and the Mediterranean Dance Festival, Perry possesses a passion for the performing arts that she is eager to pass on to her students.
Perry has danced competitively with the ADT Studio Stars and performed many roles in the Nutcracker with the High Country Youth Ballet. She also performed with SHINE Worship Dance Ensemble and as a college apprentice with SG Dance Theatre, a professional contemporary dance company. In 2019, Kelly received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Dance Pedagogy with a minor in Education from Palm Beach Atlantic University.
In addition to teaching ballet, pointe, jazz, tap, contemporary, modern and liturgical dance to students, BRPAA will also be offering acting and music classes. On hand to assist with instruction will be Perry’s sister, Casey Greene, who will be teaching strength and conditioning and is a certified physical therapist assistant, as well as Amanda McCormick, who will work as the studio’s acting instructor and holds a Bachelor of Arts in in Theater from Baldwin Wallace University.
“We definitely believe in excellence and stressing technique and making sure that they’re given a good foundation in whatever it is they end up taking here,” Perry said. “We certainly want to help to build these children’s confidence so they’re ready to go out in the world and be successful. You can learn a lot of from dance, like discipline and leadership skills.”
Perry is initiating the learning process earlier by holding summer camp classes for kids age three to 17, while she and her family are waiting on the green light to open their doors to the public. The business’s expected opening date is currently set for August 10, but BRPAA cannot officially open until the state moves into Phase 3 of its COVID-19 reopening strategy.
In the meantime, Perry and her family have been using the time to prepare for the opening as parents continue to register their children for classes. Kelly said that the response to the studio’s summer camp has been nothing but positive.
“All (of the kids) have loved it so far. I’ve only gotten positive remarks back, which is great. I think all the students have really enjoyed it. The parents come in and tell us that when the child gets in the car, they start talking about what they did all day,” Perry said.
In order to comply with COVID-19 regulations, Perry has limited her class sizes and spaced students out six feet apart. Staff are required to wear face coverings as well, and everything is cleaned and sanitized before and after every class. Additionally, adults and parents must wait outside during class instruction.
While the studio may be taking its time to get up and running due to the pandemic, BRPAA will be a welcome addition to Avery County once students and teachers alike are performing to their heart’s content across the studio’s freshly finished floor.
“As a kid myself, I had to either go to Spruce Pine or Boone, and living in Avery County that was a 30- to 45-minute drive, and I did that about every day,” Perry added. “Parents are really thankful that we finally have something like this in the area, and it’s not a super far drive for them.”
For more information, or to register for classes at the Blue Ridge Performing Arts Academy, click to blueridgeperformingarts.com/registration.