It takes time to germinate talent, especially in ballet — but after years in development, the newest regional dance company will stage its debut this month. Artistic Director Kevin Overbey set a goal almost ten years ago to launch Hendersonville Ballet, dedicated to giving local dancers the means to become professionals. It’s a natural offshoot of his school, Southside Dance Studio, in Fletcher.
“I’m a little bit nervous, but it seems to have gone really well,” says Overbey. His connections come from years dancing professionally in San Antonio, Las Vegas, Oregon, Atlanta, and other spots until he retired at 37 and opened his school.
The audition-based nonprofit gives serious students — including two boys, ages eight and nine — the opportunity to focus on performance rather than just practice. To go pro, which more than half of Hendersonville Ballet’s bright-eyed dancers would love to do, students must earn their performance chops.
“A lot of them dance because dance speaks to something inside of them. First of all, they feel good about it,” says Overbey. “But they want to give it out, even if it’s subconsciously — they need the chance to put it out there onstage. It’s hard work at their age to get them to concentrate like they do.”
On a recent Saturday in the upstairs practice room, pirouettes occupy the downtime of many of the company’s dancers, ages 11 to 16. They challenge themselves to do as many spins on tiptoe as possible, with a raised foot touching the knee of the supporting leg.
“Look! I did six!” says the oldest dancer, Samantha Grady, who auditioned for the University of North Carolina School of the Arts.
“Show me,” Overbey encourages her. But consistency is hard at this stage. She can’t repeat the feat — not quite yet.
For the February show, dancers will present 45 minutes of steady performance. A second company, the Knoxville-based Ballet Gloria, will provide another set of choreographed numbers. (Hendersonville Ballet reciprocates by performing in Tennessee in April.)
The debut, Winter Ballet, will showcase the ensemble in “Waltz of the Snowflakes” by Tchaikovsky. Also included: a pop-influenced piece, “Cello Wars” (a takeoff on Star Wars), and A Mission Impossible-themed number featuring dancers dressed as ninjas.
Overbey plans four performances a year, including full-length ballets. He says the depth of the dancers’ talent is strong enough to support the schedule. The majority of the dancers in the company have been dancing for five or more years, and sometimes practices run longer than three hours.
Two dancers recently returned from a scholarship-funded trip to New York City, where they studied at The School at Steps on Broadway with Wilhelm Burmann, a veteran dancer and coach of 40-plus years.
“[Students] have to buy new toe shoes every three months,” Overbey reveals. “I tell the parents it’s a year-round sport.”
Winter Ballet happens at Thomas Auditorium at Blue Ridge Community College in Flat Rock on Saturday, February 27, at 6:30 pm. $10/adults, $5/students. For tickets or for more information, see hendersonvilleballet.org.