SAN PEDRO, Calif. — Standing on your tippy toes is a lot harder than it looks. Ballet dancer Enrique Anaya says it can take years of practice and every week you miss, it can take a month to get back to the same shape. Mostly, Anaya misses the opportunity to perform.

“As dancers, we’re athletes, but also story-tellers, so we can’t really express or emote what we should be able to say, in front of an audience or in front of our selves in a mirror,” said Anaya about not being able to consistently rehearse during COVID-19.

What You Need To Know

  • Cindy Bradley discovered and trained ballet phenomenon Misty Copeland

  • Enrique Anaya trained at the prestigious Joffrey Ballet School in New York

  • San Pedro Ballet School lost 70% of its students during the pandemic

  • San Pedro Ballet School now conducts classes outdoors

Training as a ballet dancer is more about being able to translate song and music into movement than it is staying physically fit so learning how to dance from your laptop is a lot like learning karate from a book. You need a sparring partner.

“You can learn ballet through a Zoom class, but it’s really difficult to try to connect with the teachers,” explained Anaya. “You’re in a different environment once you’re with students in a classroom.”

So Anaya has been training with Cindy Bradley at the San Pedro Ballet School, where she spent $4,000 transforming the parking lot into an outdoor dance studio for her students. It’s a godsend for Anaya who doesn’t have what he needs to train at home.

“I’m holding onto two chairs and I have a little square of marley so you can’t really move anywhere,” said Anaya. “You have to stay confined to that space. Challenges of dancing outside is the environment can be really, really bad. It can be really hot. There’s smoke in the air.”

Known for discovering and training ballet sensation, Misty Copeland, Bradley has only been able to retain 30% of her current students through the pandemic. Her school has had to make some tough financial decisions, but she says her students are worth the effort.

“You need to just need to let it all go and run and jump across the floor,” said Bradley. “And it gives you a feeling that you’ve done what you needed to do for the day so it was super important to us for the emotional health as well as the physical health for our kids.”

Growing up in San Pedro, Anaya had a tough time convincing his family ballet would be his future, but they’ve since seen him train at the Joffrey Ballet School in New York and perform in the Nutcracker with the San Pedro City Ballet. They couldn’t be prouder.

“In a way, it’s united all of us through different platforms on social media,” said Anaya. “There’s something so beautiful within that because you’re not alone and that’s really what’s keeping us all going.”

Dancers, take a bow.