When Cheryl Bellamy started her own dance company in 2005, she moved all of the furniture out of her living room so her students could have a place to dance. A year later, she built a small studio in her backyard in Durham, North Carolina — a trailer-like building with bright purple walls and smooth laminate wood floors.
Now more than a decade later, Cheryl’s Inside Out Creative Performing Arts has outgrown the backyard and will open a new studio at 4823 Meadow Drive in Durham on Oct. 19. After four and a half years of planning, saving and “grinding,” Bellamy says it is time to expand.
“It feels good, and I’m in disbelief, but I’m nervous,” she says. “I have instructors to pay, I have a staff, so there’s a responsibility.”
Originally, Bellamy and her daughter Titiauna Williams, now an 18-year-old freshman at N.C. State, ran the company themselves. The new studio will have seven staff members and instructors, and it will be able to house up to 60 students at one time.
“My mom is firm,” Williams says. “If she believes something, it’s going to be. You just gotta do it.”
Cheryl’s Inside Out Creative Performing Arts began when Bellamy’s dance classes at the local recreational centers and Durham Public Schools became so popular, she could not accommodate all of the students who were interested.
“Even though the recreational centers were here, after the classes fill up, that was it,” Bellamy says. “One thing about the need is it’s grown even more.”
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Bellamy soon gained a following of students as young as four years old, and started offering classes in ballet, lyrical, tap, jazz, hip hop and contemporary dance in her backyard studio. She would pick up in her truck her students who did not have transportation.
Trevon Griffith, a student in Bellamy’s company since February, says, “It looked fun, and I wanted to try new things. First, I wanted to be an actor, and that just changed and then I saw a show called ‘Bring It’ and then I started to like dance.”
Some college students volunteered to help Bellamy teach classes, including Jasmine Knight, a senior physical education major at N.C. Central.
“It has been a very eye-opening experience from dealing with adults, parents and children,” she says. “The relationships you form with each category is very different. With the kids, you’re kind of like a big sister sometimes–like sometimes you can play and laugh and giggle and then sometimes you have to listen to what I’m telling you.”
The company dedicated much of its time to fundraising so that the students could compete in dance competitions and continue lessons. At least twice a month, they sold fish and chicken on Fayetteville Street so a team of 20 students could compete in the national Starbound National Talent Competition in Orlando, Fla. in June.
“We know there are a lot of kids that don’t have the funds, but we take them to compete against the best, and that builds them up,” Williams says. “There’s a difference between being trained as a dancer and having that natural talent.”
Of the 40 teams that competed in Starbound, Bellamy’s team placed in the top eight.
“The big thing that we stress is that we build the kids from the inside out, because if you can build them on the inside, wherever they are you can’t take that away because they’re strong enough,” Bellamy says. “They can conquer anything.”