On top of five full days of school each week, young dancers often have busy schedules filled with rehearsals and out-of-town training. It can be difficult to balance it all.

Online schools usually allow students to work at their own pace, but children miss out on the social aspect of school.

Bluffton Academy for the Arts gives dancers and other performing artists the best of both worlds by combining top-notch performing arts training with the online learning program of their choice.

A learning coach assists students with academics and time management and provides them with enrichment activities.

BAA directors Meg Eberly and Dawn Miller launched the academy in August 2020 with the goal of keeping the school small to provide one-on-one attention to the artists. Eberly is the lead ballet instructor at Bluffton School of Dance, where Miller is the CEO and artistic director.

“We’re trying to create as much of a school experience as we can, knowing that these students have a very strong focus in their arts,” Eberly said. “We want them to have every opportunity to learn that art and to be the best they can be at doing that, but they also need a strong academic base.”

Students study at the academy, which is located inside Bluffton School of Dance, from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday. They do not attend school on Fridays so they can use that time to travel if necessary or to work at home on any academics they have not completed.

There are currently 10 students enrolled in BAA. The school is open to children in grades 6-12 who are passionate about performing arts. Dancers must audition for the program, and other performing artists must meet with the staff to determine if they are the right fit.

Nine out of the 10 current students are dancers, and the academy offers a two-hour dance class every morning.

Longtime dancer Giadalyn Marshall is in the 8th grade at BAA and attends the private online Laurel Springs School. She likes studying at BAA because she gets personalized instruction.

“In our morning classes, we get individual corrections while we dance instead of regular, traditional evening classes, where it’s not really personal,” Giadalyn said.

Students who are not interested in dance can use that time in the morning to work on academics or to practice their preferred art form.

Juliette Ryder is in the 7th grade at BAA. She is the only non-dancer this year. Her preferred art form is writing. So, while the other students take their dance class, she works on writing supernatural fiction, mystery, animal fantasy and monologues. She is also interested in journalism and filmmaking, and she wants to learn more about acting.

Juliette likes the flexibility of BAA and the opportunities she has had to do the things she enjoys. When her class goes on field trips or participates in events, she takes notes and posts about it on social media for the academy.

The academy’s goal is to offer instruction in not only dance but music and theatre. Staff will work with families on an individual basis to provide what their students need.

BAA students are currently going through a musical theatre series, which includes one class a month for four months. They are learning about the production side of musical theater, the audition process and how to build resumes.

BAA students recently had the chance to choreograph their own performance for the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day event in Bluffton.

“It was very well received, and the pride our students took from that, knowing that they were a part of something bigger than themselves, that was pretty neat,” Eberly said. “The more we can create those opportunities for them, the better.”

For more information about Bluffton Academy for the Arts, call 843-368-0059 or visit blufftonacademyforthearts.com.

Amy Coyne Bredeson of Bluffton is a freelance writer, a mother of two and a volunteer with the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance.