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Storm blows hole in roof of St. Petersburg Ballet Conservatory, but 'the show must go on'

Parents and students flocked to the St. Petersburg Ballet Conservatory Friday night to help minimize the damage done by a storm that had torn a hole in the building’s roof. (Courtesy of Hilary Sias)
Published Jul. 2

GULFPORT — A gust of wind tore a hole in the roof of the St. Petersburg Ballet Conservatory a week before a recital — but the show must go on.

That rallying cry has galvanized conservatory dancers, parents and staff after rain and wind inflicted upward of $20,000 in damage during a severe storm June 28.

With a recital approaching Friday, the conservatory is mobilizing the community to help repair damage done to costumes, sets and the interior of its Gulfport building.

"The dancers have worked hard and we didn't want to disappoint them, so the show is happening," executive director Brian Melton said Monday. "It was just a huge mess." Melton, 47, and his wife, Anna, founded the conservatory in February 2018 after realizing that a large number of families in St. Petersburg were ferrying their children across the bay for ballet lessons due to a lack of options in Pinellas. The conservatory, located at 1500 58th St. S, now has over 75 students, according to Melton.

It had been raining for over an hour Friday evening when a mother who was picking up her kids from ballet rehearsal noticed water dripping down from the ceiling tiles, Melton said. Artistic director Servy Gallardo began gathering costumes to protect them from the dripping water, but within minutes, the ceiling tiles themselves began to fall due to the force of the downpour.

The water was coming from a hole in the building's flat roof above, which a blast of wind had peeled back, "sort of like a Pringles can," according to Melton.

Conservatory staff alerted parents to the damage that evening, and within an hour, more than 100 people arrived to protect costumes and begin cleaning up. By midnight, Melton said, the group was able to stop the mess.

"It was literally raining inside," parent Hilary Sias said in an email. Sias and her family recently moved across the state to St. Petersburg so her children could train with Gallardo.

Before agreeing to join the conservatory as its artistic director, Gallardo was formerly a principal dancer with the National Ballet of Venezuela and the San Jose Cleveland Ballet.

"This ballet school is an amazing place for some of the best training in the country and a group of wonderful people that have built it," Sias added.

According to Melton, while structural repairs likely will be covered by insurance, the conservatory could face up to $20,000 in costs to repair the dance floors and building interior. The conservatory will look to crowdsource funds.

Friday's show will go on as planned in one of the rooms of the conservatory that was not damaged by the storm. The show will begin at 7 p.m., and tickets are free and will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis.

In the meantime, Melton said, "We have a lot of costumes to dry out."

Contact Aaron Holmes at aholmes@tampabay.com or 706-347-1880. Follow @aaronpholmes.

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