Meet Elyse Tapper Cardon

  • By:  Sara Jo Rubin

Elyse Tapper Cardon has returned full circle to the Richmond Ballet where her professional career began.

Elyse Tapper Cardon began her professional dance career with Richmond Ballet, The State Ballet of Virginia, in the early 90's and soon discovered her secondary passion: the art of teaching and coaching. This led her to open Axiom-The Pilates Center of Virginia in Chambord Commons, one of the first Pilates studios in Hampton Roads. She soon discovered a new talent and love for lifestyle photography, and added her business, Sweet People Photography®, to her growing list of achievements.

Elyse Tapper Cardon has returned full circle to the Richmond Ballet, serving as Chair of the Richmond Ballet Hampton Roads Advisory Council, as well as a dance repetiteur for the Norfolk cast of The Nutcracker.

Your first experience with Richmond Ballet was as a dancer. What was that like?

I was fresh out of high school and had a choice to make between Pittsburgh Ballet and Richmond Ballet. I loved Richmond's diverse repertoire of classical, modern, and contemporary, and the opportunity to work with the impressive list of choreographers won me over. The ballet mistress and School of Richmond Ballet staff took me under their wings and were incredible mentors to me. One of my first experiences was when a company dancer was injured and I had to jump into Concerto Barocco at the last minute. It was exhilarating and nerve wracking all at once. It wasn't until I was actually on stage dancing it that I realized the corps never leaves the stage the entire ballet. I'd been waiting all my life for that moment, and it was an incredible experience.

What is it about Ballet that makes it an incredible art form for audiences?

The mission of the art form of dance is to move us, to stir something within us. The limitations of what is physically humanly possible seem not to exist for dancers. So as the audience, we experience a rising of our own inner vibrations and just when you think that they've reached the limit, there is oh so much more. A leg goes higher, a balance never ends, an expression of love lingers. Dance does that and all without the use of the voice. For an audience, watching dance is meditation. We turn that voice in our minds off and just fill it with the music and the energy on the stage.

What makes Richmond Ballet such an important institution for Hampton Roads and the entire Commonwealth of Virginia?

When I was in the company, we were designated The State Ballet of Virginia by then Governor Wilder. Even with its home base just over an hour down the road in our capital, Richmond Ballet is OUR State Ballet, too. Richmond Ballet is making a huge impact in our local communities through performance opportunities for local dancers, Minds In Motion, an in-school dance residency program for local 4th graders, and Lecture Demonstrations which introduce elementary students to the language of ballet through performance and storytelling. Richmond Ballet has always been one of the top ballet companies in the country and Hampton Roads should be so proud to have Richmond Ballet as a part of its arts and culture. All fantastic cities around the country seem to have the arts at its core.

How are you still involved with Richmond Ballet? What is it that makes you stay connected?

At the moment, I am the Chair of Richmond Ballet's Hampton Roads Advisory Council as well as a repetiteur for the Norfolk performance of The Nutcracker. I so enjoy being able to share the professionalism of Richmond Ballet with our local community. I wish everyone here could go up to Richmond and just see the facility, the School, the company. If one has never experienced the high level professionalism of Richmond Ballet, it's worth the experience. The idea of being able to share that with more and more students and our local audiences is all I need to stay connected.

Why should audiences come see Richmond Ballet's The Nutcracker at Chrysler Hall from December 6-8?

The Nutcracker is one of those traditions during the holiday season that should be shared with everyone. Tchaikovsky's score alone brings to mind snowflakes and chestnuts. Richmond Ballet's The Nutcracker, from the choreography and lighting to the sets and gorgeous costumes, is such eye candy. It is the perfect backdrop for the gorgeous artistry and athleticism of the professional company and school. We are so lucky to have this Nutcracker in our community and, of course, how fantastic is it that over one hundred of our local children get to have this experience each year as part of the student cast. I wish I had this kind of opportunity growing up here!

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