Now accepting applications!

The Lowcountry Youth Dance Academy (LYDA) is a SC Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities Outreach Program offering free pre-professional ballet training to 5th-9th-grade students in the Lowcountry region.  Our physically demanding yet rewarding program offers a systematic approach to classical ballet, ensuring technical and artistic growth for serious and passionate students.

  • Offers training in classical ballet, pointe, variation, modern, repertoire, conditioning, and Pilates
  • Taught by Governor's School faculty
  • Classes are held in Summerville at Impact Creative Arts Academy and meet 4 times per week during the school year - Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday
  • Tuition is free after a one-time $75 registration fee, and financial assistance is available

Although the priority deadline has passed, we are using a rolling admissions model for LYDA. We will continue to accept applications as space is available.


Josée Garant, SCGSAH Dance Department Chair

The Youth Dance Academy program is directed by Josée Garant, who has served as the dance department chair at the Governor's School since 2012. Under Mrs. Garant's direction, the program has developed a classical ballet program that is more inclusive and reflective of the moving trends of the 21st century. Prior to joining SCGSAH, she directed and developed programs for Canada's Royal Winnipeg Ballet's Professional Division School. Read more about Ms. Garant.

Sarah Walborn, Program Chair

Sarah Walborn of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania began her training at the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet (CPYB) under the direction of Marcia Dale Weary. In 2007, Ms. Walborn was invited to be an apprentice with the San Francisco Ballet, performing many classical and neoclassical ballets with the company. After joining The Washington Ballet in 2009, Ms.Walborn originated roles including a world premiere of Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s Sueno de Marmol, one of the twins in Septime Webre’s Great Gatsby, and various roles in Webre’s Alice (In Wonderland). In 2012, Ms. Walborn joined Kansas City Ballet under the direction of William Whitener. In 2014, Ms. Walborn began dancing with Ballet Arizona, performing in Balanchine’s Rubies, Western Symphony, Walpurgisnacht, Stravinsky Violin Concerto, and La Sonambula. Currently, Ms. Walborn is a company member with Charleston’s professional ballet company, Ballet Evolution, as well as a guest artist with various companies throughout the country.

Ms. Walborn’s extensive teaching background is influenced by Weary’s syllabus from CPYB. She has taught in many schools across the country including The Washington Ballet School, Kansas City Ballet School, East Tennessee Ballet Academy, Dance Conservatory of Maryland, Nuevolution in Queen Creek, AZ, Cannedy Performing Arts Centre, as well as CPYB’s Summer Intensive Program. Along with Lowcountry Youth Dance Academy, Ms. Walborn is also on faculty for Impact Creative Arts Academy in Summerville, SC and Charleston Ballet Center for Dance in Mount Pleasant, SC.

Amanda Neikirk, Ballet Instructor

Amanda Neikirk served as dance department chair for Dorchestor District 2 Schools for 10 years and was the director of dance at Rolling's Middle School for the Arts. Amanda served as repetieur for the Charlotte Ballet's Nutcracker in Charleston, danced with the Charleston Ballet Theatre, and was one of a small group of dancers chosen internationally for the The Atlantic Southeast Ballet. Read more about Mrs. Neikirk here.

Rachel Solomon, Modern Instructor

Rachel grew up in Farmington Hills, Michigan, where she trained at the Rochester School of Dance under Cornelia Sampson and the home of the Michigan Ballet Theater. She spent her summers taking classes at Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, and River North Dance Chicago. She has won regional and national competition choreography awards and the Wayne State University Copperfoot Award in 2005 for contribution of repertoire. Rachel has been teaching dance for over 12 years in dance studios and public school programs. She has spent 4 years as a full-time public school dance teacher with several Teacher of the Year nominations from 2008-2012. She started the first elementary school dance department in the Fairfield Country School District at Fairfield Magnet School for Math and Science in Winnsboro, South Carolina. From 2010-2012 she was the Dance Department Head Teacher at Summerville High School. There, she built the first competitive dance company and active National Honors Society for Dance through the NDEO. Rachel was a manager of the Hanahan location of Dance Moves of Charleston and is currently the Associate Director of the Dance Moves of Charleston Youth Company, a modern dance technique based Performance Company for dancers in the Lowcountry.

Christine Smith, Modern Instructor

Christine Smith is a dancer, choreographer and educator located in Summerville, South Carolina. Trained in classical ballet from a young age, Christine has studied dance at Hilton Head Dance Theatre, Rollings Middle School of the Arts, the South Carolina Governor’s School for Arts and Humanities, the Classical Ballet Centre, and the University of South Carolina. Christine graduated Magna Cum Laude with a BA in Dance Education from the University of South Carolina. She also holds a K-12 South Carolina Teaching
Certificate. While in school, she was an active dancer and choreographer with the University of South Carolina Dance Company. Christine is an avid arts advocate and dance researcher. She has participated in Arts Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., and at the SC Statehouse. In 2018, Christine traveled to New York on a grant to research and write a middle school arts integrative curriculum with dance and social studies. Currently, she is a dance educator at Rollings Middle School for the Arts.


Impact Creative Arts Academy
100 Trolley Road
Summerville, SC 29485


Sarah Walborn

Dancers in the studio
Ballet Dancer
LYDA Dancers

LYDA Application

The Lowcountry Youth Dance Academy is now accepting applications for the 2021-2022 school year.

Note: If you are applying for both the Lowcountry Youth Dance Academy (LYDA) and the Summer Dance or Residential High School Dance program at the Governor's School, then you will need to complete both the LYDA application and the Governor's School application.  

Here’s what you’ll need to complete the online LYDA application.

ID Photo

Submit a passport-style photo of yourself from the shoulders up. 

Dance Experience

No Dance experience is required. However, if you have experience you would like us to know about, you can list any classes/training/experiences you may have had in the past two years. This information is used to help us better understand your dance background. 

Parent/Guardian Contact Information

General contact information about the legal guardian(s).

Apply for LYDA 

Please submit your application as early as possible. The Office of Outreach will notify you if information is missing from your application. Incomplete applications cannot be processed.

LYDA Audition

The LYDA audition process...

will demonstrate the applicant’s physical suitability for the everyday rigor of our Classical Ballet and Modern/Contemporary programs, technical aptitude, artistic potential, and ability to take direction. The audition will include:

  • Ballet – 1 hour
  • Improv/Modern – 30 minutes
  • Interview - 5-10 minutes

Standard Dance Attire

  • Females: Black leotards, convertible pink tights, ballet shoes. For the modern center practice, applicants must be barefoot (rolled up convertible tights).
  • Males: Black t-shirts, dance belts, black convertible tights with black shoes. For the modern center practice, applicants must be barefoot (rolled up convertible tights).

After you submit your application, you will be contacted by Sarah Walborn, LYDA program chair, with more details.

Important Dates

Although the priority deadline has passed, we are using a rolling admissions model for LYDA. We will continue to accept applications for 2021-2022 as space is available.


Upon acceptance of an offer of admission for the Lowcountry Youth Dance Academy, students must submit a non-refundable deposit of $75 to hold a place in the program. A fee waiver is available for eligible students.