Ballet Mississippi plans to increase its number of students and offer additional classes now that it owns a facility in Madison.
Ballet Mississippi closed the deal on Sept. 2 for the purchase of property at 1620 Mannsdale Road that Parkway Pentecostal Church owned.
A two-story sanctuary, a recreational center and large parking lot set on nine acres make up the purchase.
Classes will also continue at the Arts Center of Mississippi on East Pascagoula Street, where the city of Jackson provides space rent free.
“This is not abandonjackson.com,” said David Keary, Ballet Mississippi artistic director. “The purchase will give us more room at our Jackson studio and that will help a lot of Jackson students who don’t want to travel to Madison for classes.”
Ballet Mississippi found it challenging in recent months to offer classes at the arts center because of the coronavirus pandemic, Jackson’s water woes and the lack of air conditioning.
“We have offered classes in Madison since 2006 at the cultural center and, truthfully, we have totally outgrown what we can offer and accommodate downtown (at our studio),” Keary said. “We need our own space that we can control. Downtown is very busy and without COVID-19, it’s a challenging situation with limited parking and limited studio space.”
Ballet Mississippi students spent just seven months in the Jackson the studio in the last year and a half because of the various issues, Keary said. Classes have met via Zoom one week and then in person the next week to provide a safe atmosphere, he said.
Plans are to offer classes at the Madison campus early next year, depending upon how construction progresses on transforming the recreational center into studio space. “That’s the goal, understanding and knowing that there’s an asterisk behind that because of COVID,” said Mary-Michael Lindsay, Ballet Mississippi marketing director who danced with the nonprofit from age three through high school.
Redemption Church will continue to lease the sanctuary for the next three years.
Madison Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler welcomed Ballet Mississippi to Madison, Keary said. He credits the Ballet Mississippi Foundation for help in making the purchase possible.
“We have been saving for this over the years,” he said. “We were able to come up with a significant down payment to get us going without robbing the bank.”
Located near St. Anthony Catholic School, the property is an easy drive from numerous upscale subdivisions where many Ballet Mississippi students reside.
Keary said he looked at many properties, including one in downtown Brandon, during the last three years. He also carefully studied data about where Ballet Mississippi’s students reside and where growth is expected in the metro area.
He purposefully sought property west of I-55 North in order to give other dance studios in the area space.
“I wanted to be a respectful distance,” he said. “I respect and admire what our sister studios do and want them to be successful.”
The purchase of the property fulfills a goal that Keary has had since he became artistic director in 1994: to expand the size of the school and offer additional training that dancers need to be even more successful.
Currently, Ballet Mississippi has about 200 students from toddlers through adult, and Keary hopes to double that number within the next year and a half. Classes in Pilates and ballroom dancing have been mentioned as possible new offerings.
Keary dreams of bringing back a professional company and the Madison location is a step toward making that possible.
“We lost the professional company some 20 years ago and the one question I’ve been getting is ‘When are you going to get your professional company back?’” he said.
Plans are to use the sanctuary at the newly purchased property as a space for Ballet Mississippi’s end-of-the year performance as well as choreographic workshops and mini performances.
Ballet Mississippi plans to continue presenting The Nutcracker at Thalia Mara Hall. The 2021 performance is scheduled Dec. 3-5.
With the new property, Mississippi Ballet plans to extend its outreach opportunities to include Madison public schools as well as Jackson public schools, Lindsay said.
A capital campaign chaired by Vaterria Martin and Robyn Pollack with assistance from several marketing specialists is in the works, Lindsay said.