Gulfport Ballerina gets up at the St. Petersburg studio

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Photo by Abby Baker.

At 21, Brianna Melton directs, choreographs and dances in “The Nutcracker” at the St. Petersburg Ballet Conservatory.

A ballerina since the age of three, Melton aims to dance for a Florida ballet company and eventually teach full time.

Her parents, Brian and Anna Melton, own the Gulfport-based ballet, so it’s no surprise when the young ballerina took a break from finding a business and took on the role of artistic director.

For months, she has been training a group of young dancers to take the stage. Melton pins their hair back, chats around the “lipstick mirror” and works diligently with dancers not much younger than her.

But it wasn’t necessarily on a happy note.

Last May, Servy Gallardo, former artistic director and co-founder of the Meltons, was charged and arrested on four counts of obscene and lascivious assault and one count of obscene and lascivious assault.

The victim was a 15-year-old ballet student who lived in Gallardo’s house.

Police took away handcuffed Gallardo during training, in front of many young students. According to the Meltons, he tried to get out as soon as he saw the police.

Now back with the first live performance since the incident, students, parents and owners of the St. Petersburg Ballet Conservatory are hoping the art of ballet will endure in Gulfport.

“It was very exciting for our students,” said Anna. “We changed the music, the way things are set up, to try to get away from those triggers.”

The Gulfport-based conservatory has been successful with online shows and Zoom courses, but was left without a director during the Nutcracker season.

“For many studios, ‘The Nutcracker’ is the biggest show of the year,” said Anna. “We can’t hire during this season, and we wouldn’t, because it would be devastating for any studio to lose a director… the dancers train so hard.”

This is where Melton put his slipper on.


A woman applying lipstick in a mirror
Ballerinas at the St. Petersburg Ballet Conservatory are getting ready before The Nutcracker. Photo by Abby Baker.

A star is born

Tall and constantly rocking a slicked back bun, Melton says she took to ballet almost immediately after a few first few lessons. Anna and Brian had no experience in the dance world, but they made it work.

“I think I was born a dancer and was made to teach,” Melton told The Gabber at mid-practice.

Almost 20 years later, his parents are the owners of Gulfport’s only ballet studio.

“She was the inspiration behind it all,” Brian said.

For months before the Nutcracker show, the recent University of South Florida graduate took the reins and began teaching both young and old her version of a winter classic.

Alongside her students, Melton learned her own routine on her own.

The unconventional dynamic clicked.

“I was definitely thrown into the fire. I knew I wanted to teach, but I didn’t expect it to be so soon, like this, ”Melton said. “It was kind of a necessity; these kids were watching me to know when to go next.

She may eventually leave the studio where she started teaching, but Melton plans to one day return to her roots.

See more of the Gulfport House for Ballet at stpeteballetconservatory.com.


Three ballerinas dancing on stage
“The Nutcracker” is truly the number one source of revenue for ballet studios, ”said owner Anna Melton. Photo by Abby Baker.

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