casual faculty

The Ballet School of Chapel Hill was founded in 1980 by M’Liss Dorrance and Gretchen Vickery. Jennifer Potts and Carol Richard joined in 1981 as the school expanded in its original home at the Village Shopping Center on Elliot Road. Hundreds of students later and following years of creative planning led by Gretchen, the school moved around the corner to 1603 East Franklin Street in 1992. The Dail Dixon building design received the award for Design Excellence from the Town of Chapel Hill Appearance Commission the following year. The original class offerings in Ballet and Preballet grew to include complete programs in Rhythm Tap, Jazz, Modern Dance, and Fencing. Following the dancers to their new home, the Artgarden Montessori Children’s House, also founded by the creative foursome, happily took up their new residency.

In 2000, as Gretchen approached retirement, senior faculty and longtime contributors Diane Eilber and Gene Medler were joined by former Joffrey Ballet principals Julie Janus Walters and Tyler Walters (who had studied with Dorrance in his early teens) and Katie Wakeford, a former Ballet School student and Charleston Ballet Theater soloist, as new partners in the School. In 2010, long-time teacher and Ballet School administrator Robin Vail joined the partnership. Home to many performing companies and ensembles throughout the years, the Ballet School is proud to have sponsored the former Chapel Hill Ballet and 15-501 Ballet companies, Carolina Dancers, Taptations, the internationally acclaimed North Carolina Youth Tap Ensemble (originally The Children’s Tap Company and Triangle Tap Company), Studio A Dancers, Whirlwind Dancers, and our own studio company, the Chapel Hill Dance Theater. Recognized by the Dance Spirit Magazine as one of the top schools in the region, the studio is also proud of its award-winning faculty.