Ballet Academy of St. Petersburg Onstage

Ballet Academy of St. Petersburg Prepares for
Sleeping Beauty Performance with NEA Grant

May 14 at 4 pm
Palladium Theater
Details here

NEA/Pinellas Recovers Grant Update

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Plié, Tendu, Pirouette. Those words sprinkled the air at the Ballet Academy of St. Petersburg. About 20 young dancers listened to the guided direction of their masterful choreographer and artistic director, Dr. Dusanka Gradiski Ivanova.

This mandatory class preceded their first instruction in pointe shoes – a technique where dancers perform on their tiptoes in specially designed shoes – a coming-of-age moment in any ballet dancer’s career. During this pre-pointe class, the dancers proved their skills.

The Ballet Academy resides at 2309 Central Ave (The Mar) in downtown St. Petersburg. Although the space inside permits the dancers and instructors to carry on with scheduled classes, the uptick in rent, especially in central St. Pete, does not bode well with the company’s needs.

“Our current situation is we were dancing in a city building before covid at $650 a month. It was very affordable. Well, when COVID came, the people we were renting the building from had to come out of the rec center into our facility. We’re in a retail space now that has gotten very expensive and still rising,” Trisha Geizner, the Academy’s managing director, says.

Dr. Dusanka Gradiski Ivanova working with a student

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“It’s a financial puzzle every day,” Geizner adds.

With evergrowing rent and an expanding pool of dancers, Geizner fills her workdays with budgeting, performance planning and grant research. Geizner says a typical day for her includes everything from signing contracts, laying Marley (a specific vinyl dance floor) down, planning out performance schedules, adjusting ticket prices, scouring for budget-friendly costume materials, sewing, accounting, paying bills and researching grants.

“So you may catch me in a day sewing, doing headpieces, coordinating fabric. A lot of shopping involved to try to put pieces together for props,” Geizner states.

According to Geizner, dancers range in age from three to 60 years old, and while the company is not a competition-based studio but a performing studio, renting venues requires a lot of money. Instead of raising tuition to mitigate costs, she finds alternative solutions to retain dancers with affordable tuition.

“Nonprofit was kind of new to me, but part of what supports us are always grants because of our dancers and what we do.

“If you go to another studio that’s maybe competition or recital based, [they] will have your child in an hour at a time. But because we’re performance-based, our upper-level dances ten hours a week. So for us to even attempt to make our money on tuition, we would out-price having dancers dance with us,” Geizner explains.

“We charge what we consider reasonably acceptable tuition for them to have a commitment to the studio – but everything else is grant funding, or we do fundraisers as well.”

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NEA Grant

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The NEA/Pinellas Recovers Grant administered by Creative Pinellas awarded the academy $5,000 last year. Geizner broke down how that money helped further the progress of the flourishing dance studio.

Half of the grant supported Dr. Dusanka Gradiski Ivanova in choreographing and staging a routine for the dancers.

“Our artistic director has trained several dancers that have gone on to become professional. But she is actually from Macedonia. I can truly tell you from experience the level that our artistic director brings out in the children is like second to none to what we’ve seen out there.

“Not being a competition studio, we’re not worried about how many fouettés you do. We’re worried about how well you do them. She really, I think, is still an undiscovered asset of St. Petersburg,” Geizner praises.

“She’s not just a dancer that came to teach. She was formally educated and pre-doctorate in teaching dance.”

The other half of the grant contributed to renting out St. Pete’s Palladium Theater, getting Marley flooring, and creating and printing playbills for this weekend’s performance.
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Future Plans, Upcoming Shows

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As the academy prepares for its spring production of Sleeping Beauty on May 14, Geizner searches for a new practice space.

“Our next big adventure is going to be looking for a bigger facility because we have outgrown where we’re at,” Geizner continues. “I keep hoping maybe there’s a partner, nonprofit that might have space for us as well. If not, I’m going to try going back to the city.”
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Sleeping Beauty
Sunday, May 14 at 4 pm
Palladium Theater
253 5th Ave. N
St Petersburg FL 33701
Ticket information here
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The Ballet Academy of St. Petersburg
is a recipient of the Pinellas Recovers Grant,
provided by Creative Pinellas through a grant from the
National Endowment of the Arts American Rescue Plan.


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