When Carolyn Brant moved to Bend in 1974, it was a sleepy town half the size it is today. There was no Arts and Culture Alliance, no Deschutes Brewery, and Mt. Bachelor didn't even have a summit chairlift. "You couldn't find a dance event to go to," Brandt recalls. "It just didn't exist." To that working class town, Brant brought the Terpsichorean Dance Studio and, since its founding in 1975, the studio has grown to include both the traditional styles Brant was trained in such as ballet and tap, as well as more contemporary modes including modern dance and hip-hop.
And, as the studio has expanded, so has Brandt's family and influence. Over the years, thousands of students—and as many as three generations—have passed through. And each one has received one of Brandt's famous hugs.
"I call them the studio family because that's what they are," she says. "I feel really lucky I made a living doing something I would have done for free."
She recently sold the studio to one of those family members—Dakota Weeda, an energetic young teacher whose relationship with Terpsichorean began in utero. After 39 years as CEO, director, teacher, custodian, and hug provider, the 68-year-old is ready to step back and let someone else carry the studio into the future. Though Bend now has a thriving dance community, Brant says the Terpsichorean remains the only studio not focused on ballet or competitive dance. Instead, it upholds the philosophy that dance should be about celebration, not competition, and that all bodies and abilities should be welcome. After all, Terpsichorean comes from Terpsichore or "delight in dancing," the Greek muse of dance. Even in retirement, Brant won't be far from that source of joy. Whether staffing the studio's dancewear shop or sitting in the audience at recitals, she will continue her favorite part of the job: watching her dance family grow.