Former Charleston Ballet Theatre dancers Stephen Gabriel and Jonathan Tabbert plan to open the Charleston Dance Institute this fall. Their Mt. Pleasant space is still under construction, but they’re offering summer sessions July 2-13 at the Charleston County School of the Arts. They hope to reveal the finished studio with an open house on Sept. 1, followed by fall classes beginning just a few days later taught by the dancers and two other teachers.
Tabbert and Gabriel have danced all over the country, from Florida to Nebraska and back. Both performed with the CBT for years. Tabbert was with the company for 13 years, and Gabriel for 15. Gabriel also served as the company’s ballet master for the last five years. “We’ve been in the Charleston dance community for quite some time,” Tabbert says. “We’ve both had a lot of experience and many years in teaching and directing.”
After traveling with different companies, teaching with various studios, and performing all across the board, Tabbert and Gabriel decided to plant their roots back in the Holy City with a studio of their own. “It’s kind of natural progression in any dancers’ lives,” explains Tabbert. “It’s something that’s been growing in our interests.”
While Tabbert and Gabriel have already welcomed some of their former CBT students to the studio, they look forward to promoting fresh talent as well. “We do have a core group of students ready,” Tabbert says, “but the more, the better.” The studio offers two student performance programs: Charleston Youth Ballet and Charleston Broadway Dance Ensemble.
The studio expects to offer professional outlets for unrecognized talent. And while Tabbert and Gabriel have split from the Charleston Ballet Theatre, they hope the dance community will work together, not compete. “We’re very passionate about collaboration,” Tabbert says. “We want to find the right place for every dancer.”
More than a half dozen board members have recently resigned from the Charleston Ballet Theatre's board of directors. Former board president Charles Patrick is among those who've tendered their resignations in the last few weeks, and sources close to the ballet confirm that the list also includes previous board president Cece Stricklin, Mark Fava, Al Votaw, Chris Handal, and Kit Whitley. Former treasurer Patrick Wamsley also recently resigned.
Whitley, Fava, and Votaw were part of a sub-committee focused on giving dancers a chance to express their concerns and discuss ideas as to how to improve the company. The formation of the group was inspired by the October City Paper cover story about alleged mismanagement and the improper use of copyrighted material by CBT choreographers. According to an e-mail sent to some CBT dancers by the sub-committee, the three board members interviewed company members and provided some suggestions to the board, including a summary of health and safety concerns and contract and ethical issues. They also recommended the drafting of a dancer's bill of rights to ensure everyone's protection and to create a clear grievance procedure.
Although we spoke to some board members, none were willing to go on record about the matter. CBT CEO and resident choreographer Jill Eathorne Bahr did not respond to requests for comment.
The Charleston Ballet Theatre recently moved out of the Black Box Theatre on King Street, turning over the keys to PURE Theatre. They'll now hop between local venues for performances, but their main dance studios are located in Mt. Pleasant at 615 and 617 Johnnie Dodds Blvd. They're hosting an open house on Thurs. Sept. 1 at 6 p.m. Stop by to tour the facility, meet the faculty, and enjoy refreshments and music from Charleston Classic Musicians. Call (843) 754-9993 for more details.