Norma Pera, the Dance Department Head at Baltimore School for the Arts (BSA), has announced she will retire at the end of the 2017-18 school year.
“Norma’s passion for the art of ballet and her exacting standards have helped hundreds of students go on to great lives both on and off the dance stage,” said Dr. Chris Ford, BSA’s director and a long-time colleague. “She has been unwavering in her pursuit of excellence for her program. She is dynamic, committed, and tough, and she will be sorely missed.”
Pera began teaching at BSA when it opened in 1979, and assumed leadership of the department in 1992 upon the retirement of noted classical dancer Sylvester Campbell.
She began her training at the age of three at Carnegie Hall in its children’s ballet class, and continued it from the age of seven onward in the studio of Martha Manners on Long Island, NY. She has performed with the Radio City Music Hall’s ballet company, Rudolf Nureyev and Friends, and the Maryland Ballet. She also trained under Elena Tchernichova for years, and taught classes at Carnegie Hall and in Baltimore.
Campbell was a colleague at the Maryland Ballet and recruited her to join him at the then brand-new School for the Arts. At that time, many of the dancers had no previous training in ballet, and Pera enjoyed the challenge of crafting a class that taught not only the physical movement of ballet, but also its history and traditions.
After she became Dance Department Head, she created men’s, pas de deux, and men’s and women’s variations classes. BSA also became one of the few high schools in the country to be allowed to perform the works of the celebrated choreographer George Balanchine.
Dancers who have trained under Ms. Pera have gone on to successful careers both in and outside the world of dance. She has placed graduates with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, Bejart Ballet, the Charlotte Ballet, Complexions Contemporary Ballet, Kidd Pivot, Lines Ballet, the Pennsylvania Ballet, the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, the Sacramento Ballet, and the Washington Ballet, among others. Other BSA dance alumni work at such prestigious organizations such as DreamWorks Animation, the Kennedy Krieger Institute, the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs; they also work as doctors, social workers, and dance studio owners, among a wide variety of other fields.
The BSA community of alumni and friends will have the opportunity to honor and celebrate Pera at an event in June at the school, details forthcoming.
A nationwide search has been launched to find a successor.