We had the good fortune of connecting with Noel Pipkin and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Noel, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
Over the last few years, I have referred to Barre Belle as my passion project. Ballet has always been a huge part of my life. Many of my high school afternoons were spent in class and rehearsals for studio performances and pre-professional competitions. It is not a secret that the ballet world lacks diversity. We now have Black principal dancers at renowned companies who have shared their experiences as what Shonda Rhimes describes, “First. Only. Different.” My desire to cultivate a space for low-income students and children of color to learn classical ballet grew from my own experiences as a Black ballerina. I wanted to build a studio that supported a communal pursuit of the arts regardless of access to resources. With the encouragement of friends and family I developed Barre Belle, a 501c3, portable dance studio designed to provide universal access to the art of dance through local community centers and schools.

What should our readers know about your business?
Barre Belle is a portable dance studio for elementary students to introduce ballet fundamentals. Classes are geared toward those with little to no previous ballet or dance training. Students in our program have an opportunity to learn, perform and attend a professional dance performance to reinforce what is learned during their session. Barre Belle partners with local organizations that cater to youth who are underrepresented and underserved. We provide class instruction and workshops for our partners at the Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club, Charlotte Community Services Association, Freedom School Partners Inc., Premier Foundation of North Carolina and the Ronald McDonald House of Charlotte throughout the academic year and summer months.
Barre Belle is committed to serving a diverse population by partnering with organizations that share in this same purpose. These like-organizations have identified the targeted group of students through the Charlotte Mecklenburg School system. Our reach is specific to these groups as we are a portable dance studio and bring classes to these shared sites. The portable nature of our dance studio helps to limit the need for additional resources including, but not limited to transportation, tuition, ticket prices and dance apparel.

Charlotte has become a transient city. The influx of new cultures brings diversity of thought, backgrounds and experiences. Barre Belle hopes to channel this type of diversity through dance class offerings for youth across the city. There are several communities in Charlotte that have been negatively impacted by gentrification. Projects like Barre Belle provide families with alternative and affordable ways to expose their children to the arts and other cultural enrichment activities.

Barre Belle is funded through donations and grants that sponsor student’s leotards, tights, ballet slippers, field trips to professional performances and travel stipends for interns. Our aim is for students to achieve an increased level of self-awareness, self-esteem and encourage movement through the art of dance whether it is ballet or any other form. Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Carmen D. Wade, Ballet Instructor Carmen Wade was the ballet teacher that helped me develop confidence in my skills as a dancer, particularly as a black ballerina. Ms. Carmen having danced with Dance Theatre of Harlem in her early career introduced me to brown tights and ballet shoes, challenged me with tough choreography and auditions while also supporting me during periods when I felt discouraged and inadequate. Each of her students have a unique relationship with her and thoroughly enjoy her ballet classes. The passion Ms. Carmen has for the art of ballet and her students is unmatched!

The Arts and Science Council (ASC)
Barre Belle has been fortunate enough to have partnered with The Arts and Science Council (ASC) over the last year and is a current recipient of their Cultural Vision Grant. This grant has helped Barre Belle expand our reach throughout the local Charlotte community. The Barre Belle board and our students are appreciative of the financial support and shared belief in our purpose!

The Arts and Science Council serves as the designated “Office of Cultural Resources” for the City of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County and six suburban towns by providing advocacy, cultural education programs, cultural planning, fundraising, grant making, public art and workshops and trainings for the cultural community.

Website: https://www.barrebelleballet.org/

Instagram: @barrebelleballet

Facebook: Facebook.com/BarreBelleBallet

Image Credits
Julian Harris – J. Anthony Photography

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