Charlottesville Ballet Company

Posted on February 11, 2010 by


In 2007, two ballerinas decided Charlottesville needed a ballet company.

Emily Mott, a Roanoke, VA native, and Sara Jansen, originally from New York, co-founded the Charlottesville Ballet Company. Jansen, who was teaching in the area, and Mott, who was pursuing academic studies at U.Va, decided that with the broad spectrum of arts in Charlottesville, a professional ballet company could fill an important niche in the dance community.

“Charlottesville Ballet is truly unique in their mission,” explains company member Caitlin Lennon.

“Many dance companies put a lot of pressure on their dancers to maintain an unhealthy body weight, or to continue dancing, even when sick or injured… Charlottesville Ballet encourages their dancers to be healthy, whole people.”

Also unique to the company is their choreography, or inspiration for ballet pieces, ranging from a piece inspired by the paintings of Edward Hopper to a children’s ballet called A Fairy Tale Gathering. “Inspiration comes from all forms – painting, sculpture, books, friendships, past relationships, religion, and sometimes just movement itself,” explains Mott.

“Like many artists, I find inspiration in everyday life.”

charlottesville ballet

Emily Mott of Charlottesville Ballet

Inspiration can even come from performing. “It really makes me feel fantastic knowing that, not only am I having a great time, but my performance can affect members of the audience in how they feel,” explains Lennon.

After all, ballet is, in ten words, “communicating with an audience using physical movement in technical form.” It is distinct from other dance genres in its “use of line, form, shape, and also the use of the torture device (circa 1800) called the pointe shoe,” explains Mott. For company member Emily Oppelt, “Dance is life expressed through movement.” This passion for dance is shared by all members of the company, fueling growth and development.

In the midst of their second performing year, publicity plays a key factor in the company’s continual success. “It’s really about getting the word out,” explains Lennon. “Once people know about us, they’re thrilled that a local dance company can bring professional performance to the community.” In order to perfect this professional quality, the company rehearses four days a week, for four hours during regular weeks of the season.

Besides technique classes and hours of rehearsal, the dancers have been faced with many challenges. “My biggest challenge has been money,” offers Jansen. “There is a constant struggle between doing what you love and trying to make a living.”

For Mott, the struggle has been a balance between academic and artistic interests. “We may work on the side to help support ourselves, but this is what we want to do with our lives,” explains Mott. Interestingly, the company was first called Ma-at Ensemble, using the Egyptian word to encapsulate the “balance” this company seeks, on and off the dance floor. “The company makes it possible for dancers to pursue multiple passions,” confirms Oppelt.

Mott and Jansen hope for continual growth within the company, from more dancers and a larger apprentice program, as well as their own building and studio space. “All in all, I think we’re definitely on the up and up,” adds Mott.

Posted in: 10 in 20ten, dance