How a Viral Photo Helped En Pointe Dance Studio Rebuild its Community

by Bridget Conrad | 2/14/2019 1:38 AM

Photo Credit: En Pointe Dance Studio (BNJ Photography)

The year 2016 was one of high highs and low lows for En Pointe Dance Studio in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. On one hand, its annual company photo featuring a group of predominantly African American ballerinas went viral, gaining attention from noteworthy publications and dancers. On the other hand, the studio fell victim to the great flood of 2016 and lost everything. In the midst of adversity though, it was the kindness and support from her dance family and fans of the photo that pushed studio owner Brandi Chapman to rebuild and make En Pointe Dance Studio better than ever.

Since 2013, En Pointe Dance Studio has taught ballet, pointe, tap, modern, lyrical, and hip hop to dancers ages 3 and up while encouraging diversity in a positive learning environment. Right now, En Pointe doesn’t offer adult classes, but it does have a competition team including minis, juniors, and elites under the direction of Competition Director Jeoffery Harris, Jr.

Photo Credit: En Pointe Dance Studio

In its inaugural year, En Pointe only had 15 dancers, so Chapman thought it would be a neat idea to do an “all dancer” studio picture. They took another photo for the 2014/2015 dance season, and by the time the 2015/2016 dance season rolled around, this picture became a studio tradition. For the 2015/2016 picture though, Chapman envisioned a clean, classic, and traditional photo on the steps of Louisiana’s Old State Capitol that showed people that En Pointe “existed.” Little did they know that as soon as this photo was posted on En Pointe’s social media channels that it would go viral. 

Obviously, this affected En Pointe’s enrollment in a positive way, but besides that, the studio got attention from all over the United States. Not only was the picture featured in Essence Magazine, and shared on social media by Misty Copeland herself, Chapman also received many offers for reality TV shows that she ultimately turned down because they didn’t align with En Pointe’s goal. From day one, everyone involved with En Pointe set very high standards for themselves, and this national attention only made them raise their standards since more people had their eyes on the studio. Chapman said that the 2016 photo will always serve as the studio’s main advertisement, and rightfully so, since it’s now racked up more than 6.5 million views on Facebook alone. 

With great success came unexpected tragedy though when En Pointe fell victim to the great flood of 2016. The studio was completely wiped out and Chapman was forced to rebuild from the ground up, ultimately delaying En Pointe’s 2016/2017 dance season.  “Many times I wanted to give up and said to myself that maybe the picture was meant to be the end of our journey, but I kept reminding myself that being lazy is disrespectful to the people who believe in you,” commented Chapman. Since En Pointe had gained so much national support due to the picture, Chapman felt there no choice but for the studio to come back stronger than ever.

Photo Credit: En Pointe Dance Studio

Now operating in a new location, Chapman’s main goal for En Pointe is to continuously raise the bar. Rather than trying to recreate the 2016 iconic photo, Chapman is focused on simply delivering quality dance education. “We have stayed true to the dance genres and quality of deliverance and I want to make sure we never steer away from that. At the end of the day, we are a school and our job is to TEACH,” said Chapman.  

Because En Pointe is a studio that's inclusive of all races, Chapman is often reminded of a quote by Misty Copeland that states, “Belonging shouldn’t mean you’re like everyone else!” Dance provides people with a plethora of styles, studios, and teachers, but it’s the student’s job to find the studio that allows he or she to fall in love with the art of dance. “I was the only African American dancer at my studio for a long time, but my studio LOVED me. I wasn’t treated differently either way. I wasn’t mistreated nor was I treated more special because of it,” said Chapman.

Overall, Chapman strives to have En Pointe Dance Studio provide all types of dancers with quality dance education. En Pointe accepts beginner to advanced children, leisure dancers, those who to aspire to dance professionally, and all races, all genders, and all body types. While the students of En Pointe Dance Studio may not all look the same, they have one thing that binds them together- they all love dance! 

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