Dancing Together Community Ballet brings together students, community, faculty

It would be difficult to find a better embodiment of Pro Humanitate than the Community Ballet program. Begun in the early 1980s by Professor Brantly Shapiro, it’s a rare combination of affordable community resource, rich student leadership opportunity, and driven passion project elevating the highest standards in ballet.

After volunteering her time for years, Professor Shapiro began to enlist the help of students, transforming the program into an opportunity for arts students to demonstrate leadership and give back to the community while also being paid themselves.

“I was able to share my enjoyment of dance with children within the Winston-Salem community.”

— Olivia Nandkeolyar (‘21)

“I appreciated being able to form relationships with the students—working with them helped me realize my passion for teaching and was a factor when I changed my major to Elementary Education,” adds a former student. “I was then able to use what I learned about teaching in my classroom this year.”

“We’ve had education majors, we have a current business major,” explains Shapiro. “One student, Lauren Chaung ('18), even went on to work with the Dance Institute of Washington in Washington, DC. When Lauren was a senior at Wake, she wrote a lengthy research paper about the mission and results of Community Ballet. All of this started when she became a student assistant in the program."

“The Community Ballet program was such an important highlight of my time at Wake Forest. The students, parents, assistants, and teachers are a community that really cares and values our time together.”

— Emilie Bogusz (‘17)

The program has been an asset in Emilie Bogusz’s subsequent professional life as well. “It's something I've talked about in every job interview, networking event, and even socially when describing my time at Wake.”

“It’s become an amazingly symbiotic thing,” describes Shapiro. “I must write more letters of recommendation than practically anybody on campus! Everyone is interested in the student's ability to lead and manage a room—the service, rigor, and beauty of Community Ballet just capture their imagination.”

In the wake of the pandemic, programs such as this have understandably not been able to meet in person due to campus wide restrictions. While adapting resourcefully to virtual teaching, Shapiro recognizes that this is a program that really requires in-person connection.

“Hopefully, this program will continue to be able to serve the Winston community for many more years to come as we all move towards a new normal and the students of Community Ballet can once again engage with Wake students.”

— Olivia Nandkeolyar (‘21)

We can’t wait to open the doors again and see Community Ballet leap back into forging connections between students, community, faculty, and families in the true Pro Humanitate spirit.