We Mourn The Loss

Of Founding Artistic Director


July 10, 1935  - November 19, 2020 

George Donald Cantwell (Don), the long-time Artistic Director of the Charleston Ballet died November 19, 2020 at the Roper Hospice Cottage  after a lengthy 2-year battle with cancer. He devoted his life to classical ballet and was convinced that professional ballet could flourish at the grass-roots level in Charleston. He was 85 years old.

A native of Charleston, graduated from Bishop England High School, Cantwell began his dance training in Charleston finally dancing at Atlanta Ballet and Theatre Under the Stars in Atlanta before moving to New York. Mr. Cantwell returned to his native Charleston in 1966 after passionately pursuing his dance career training with the Atlanta Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Joffrey Ballet, and The Ballet Russe School. His goal was to deliver South Carolinians a chance to enjoy quality dance. In the ensuing 45 years, he fulfilled and surpassed that goal. and ultimately returned to his beloved Lowcountry.

Throughout his successful career, Don has served in a variety of capacities from dancer, to partner, to director, to scenic designer, to costumer. During his first years back in Charleston, Mr. Cantwell worked at the Civic Ballet with former soloist with the New York City Ballet, Stanley Zompakos. He expanded his creative talents from the stage to behind the curtain preparing sets and distinctive costumes for most of the productions.

Cantwell choreographed, designed, and produced Charleston’s First Nutcracker which premiered at the Memminger Auditorium. He later married Patricia Downs, a ballerina who was discovered at age 13 by the legendary George Balanchine. Patricia taught in the school, danced all the principal ballerina roles, and conceived the idea of a full-time professional ballet company for Charleston.

The couple joined Regional Dance America, SE, building the company from Intern Member to Performing to Finally Honor Company. Cantwell’s introduced to Charleston dance giant Mikhail Baryshnikov, as well as many outstanding ballet dancers including Heather Watts and Ib Anderson of New York City Ballet, and Cynthia Gregory, and Fernando Bujones. of America Ballet Theatre. The school has hosted to many dance greats including Alicia Alonso, Helgi Thomasson, Bela Lewitsky, Bruce Marks and the Boston Ballet, during the initial years of Spoleto USA Festival. The Civic Company hosted two Regional Dance Festivals to Charleston, bringing 21 companies and over 1200 dancers to perform in Charleston each time. It was here they met nationally Awarded Choreographer/Master Teacher Jill Eathorne Bahr.

Under his outstanding leadership, along with his wife Patricia Cantwell and Resident Choreographer Jill Eathorne Bahr, Charleston Ballet Theatre was created. There was a perfect division of labor.  As the company's choreographer, Jill Eathorne Bahr was the Resident Choreographer. Patricia Cantwell was lead ballerina, visionary and Director of the school and Cantwell designed sets and costumes. The company grew from a local dance school and civic company exploding into a strong professional ballet company in 1987 that employed 18 dancers on a 30-week contract. During his tenure with the CBT, he carved a unique reputation for performing the classics as well as encouraging established and emerging choreographers in the creation of new works.

He introduced some of the nation's most exciting dancers to Charleston Ballet Theatre and established the Charleston Ballet Theatre Centre for Dance Education which currently reaches out to hundreds of students each year.

Charleston Ballet Theatre developed a national reputation for innovation and creativity. With a repertory of ballets from the greatest master choreographer George Balanchine (5 ballets “Allegro Brilliante” “Concerto Barocco” “Tarantella” Serenade and “Who Cares?”)Jose Limon’s)“The Moors Pavane”) , Salvatore Aiello, (“Clowns and Others” and “Notturno”), David Parsons (“The Envelope”). Twyla Tharp’s (“Bakers Dozen”) , Bruce Marks (“The Lark Ascending”) Daniel Pelzig  (“Nine Lives” and _________ ) Alan Hineline (and Ron Cunningham (“Reflected Shadows” and Caesura”) and as well as full length classics such as Swan Lake”, “Romeo & Juliet”, “Don Quixote”, “Nutcracker”, “Coppelia “and “Cinderella.”

The company presented a five-part season and was represented by a national booking agent touring the Eastern, United States. The company remained a mainstay in Piccolo Spoleto Festival from 1987-2011 when it presented the immensely popular “Brown Bag and Ballet Series”, “High Tea Musicales” with prominent members of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra and “"Late Late Night at Ballet.” The company co-produced the grand scale production of Carmina Burana with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra. Cantwell stayed active with the company until 2012. Memorable special event collaborations with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra during Piccolo Spoleto including Rite of Spring “at the Angel Oak and “Firebird”, “A Midsummer Night's Dream” at the Angel Oak. Another highlight included the presence of American Composer Philip Glass.at the Piccolo Spoleto Premiere of “Poetry with A Splash of Red Blood.”

A prolific costume and set designer Cantwell remained an acknowledged master of distinct styles as well as brilliant colors. His sets for "Nutcracker" “” Little Mermaid” “Cinderella” “A Midsummer Night's Dream” or “Snow White”, were always able to fuse the visons of choreographers into magnificent sets providing the atmosphere in which they could ignite. His costumes recreated for many of the Balanchine works following Karinska designs carried a deep knowledge that grasped the needs of a body in motion without relinquishing style. His personal design were unique and prolific as he created and designed ninety percent of the  professional ballet companies costumes.

A towering, man with closely cropped grey hair and striking  green eyes, Cantwell was always impeccably groomed. Even in his impoverished youthful days here in Charleston, he managed to give the impression of a man of the world who lived in a sophisticated style. Deeply Religious, Cantwell was well-read and artistically knowledgeable, and a classic movie buff. He was a gentle, thoughtful “Big Buddha” who conveyed a profound sense of languid elegance with a sprinkle of whimsical humor. He cherished his children and grandchildren. He was dearly loved by the hundreds of baby ballerinas affectionately known as “Big D.”

Cantwell is predeceased by his beloved mother and father, brothers Former Charleston Police Officer James Cantwell and Allen Cantwell of Charleston. Cantwell is survived by his wife Patricia; a son Joshua Paul Cantwell, his daughter in law Eliza Hutto Cantwell, grandsons, Bowers and Ellis Cantwell, a daughter Kimberly Cantwell Brantingham, his son in law Todd Brantingham(deceased), grandson Jason Brantingham, and granddaughter Caitlyn Brantingham.

The family expresses deep gratitude to Roper St Francis Hospice, , his Hospice nurse Theresa Ponessa and Home Care Nurse Rebecca Mellagui of Amedisys Home Health Care. The family respectfully suggests that expressions of sympathy go to Roper St Francis Hospice 1483 Tobias Gadson Blvd, Ste 209b, Charleston, South Carolina 29407, and Coastal Ballet, USA. 1703 Ventura Place, Mount Pleasant, SC, A Memorial Service will be planned in the future after the Covid 19 Pandemic.   

Who We Are

Charleston Ballet Center for Dance is the longest continually running ballet school in the  Lowcountry. It was founded by Don Cantwell over 45 years ago. The comprehensive and challenging curriculum is designed to inspire future dancers of all types, whether aspiring to have professional career or those who simply desire the benefits of quality dance training. The school welcomes students of all ages, abilities, and commitment level.  While we specialize in serious dance training for the student who wishes to pursue a dance career; Charleston Ballet Center for Dance  embraces the importance that everyone should Dance!


The Art of Classical Ballet Technique is truly a refuge from the chaos that now encompasses the 21t century life. The ballet studio is a place of tranquility, sophistication, beauty and manner - and the stage is a place where inspiration and creativity still exists.

We promise attention to detail, depth of knowledge and a  tried and true system of  training "your precious cargo" - YOUR DANCER"  everyday,  


The school has  three spacious, fully equipped studios including state-of-the-art dance flooring.  This facility allows the school to limit class size and offer a varied and expanded curriculum of both classical and contemporary dance styles.

Charleston Ballet  Center for  Dance  students have participated in the Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP).  It is the world’s largest student ballet scholarship competition that awards over $250,000 annually in scholarships to leading dance schools worldwide. The competition is held annually around the world and in New York City, and is open to dance students of all nationalities 9-19 years old.


The Artistic Team of Don & Patricia Cantwell and Jill Eathorne Bahr of the Charleston Ballet Center for  Dance  announce the creation of a new regional dance training program “Coastal Ballet USA. The new Coastal Ballet USA, complete with a new regional board, mission and goals, will be led by the artistic team of Don & Patricia Cantwell and Jill Eathorne Bahr will continue to offer educational programs and professional performances.

Don’t Think. Just Dance.



When don't think it is SAFE .

Dancers Ages 3-5

Considering the challenges of social distancing for our youngest dancers and the health and safety of our community, we currently will also operate our  Childhood Program ((ages 3–5) and elementary level classes as a fully online, virtual experience.

For Kids classes (ages 3–5), Digital classes will be taught live at the ballet school or , for a synchronous learning experience Digital: These live, online classes are designed solely for interactive digital learning in real-time. Screen-sharing and multimedia tools are incorporated into this digital dance experience.  ZOOM is interactive! Unlike live-streaming, in these sessions your child's favorite teacher can see and interact with your child. Register for this class at least 15 minutes before class, and receive a link and a password via email to log in and join the fun! Zooming with Ballet  ZOOM classes are limited to 5-6  participants. Join Miss Katie  for 45 minutes of imaginative dance and movement from the comfort of your own home.


We are dedicated to bringing outstanding training and experience in the art of dance to home schoolers in the area.  We nurture physical confidence, grace and athletic strength in your children. These classes are very unique in that the makeup of each particular class will greatly dictate the curriculum. Dance provides a kinesthetic awareness for children of all ages that will help them to grow and develop their gross motor skills. Children will get some of the fundamentals that would come in a physical education class, but with a unique twist to bring out a child’s blossoming creativity.



Meet the Directors

You’re in Great Hands

Leaders see what's possible, can describe the possibilities, and pursue them. The role of leadership is to envision a better future and become the change agent that makes this future possible.

Native Charlestonian Don Cantwell returned from studies in New York in 1967 and formed the Charleston Civic Ballet, the predecessor of the professional company.  He later married Patricia Downs, a ballerina who was discovered at age 13 by the legendary George Balanchine. Patricia taught in the school, danced all of the principal ballerina roles, and conceived the idea of a full-time professional ballet company for Charleston. Don and Patricia were joined by Jill Eathorne Bahr, one of the country’s foremost choreographers in 1987. Her acclaimed ballets are in the repertoires of Boston Ballet, Atlanta Ballet, and North Carolina Dance Theatre. 

The company garnered and was given the licensing rights to perform the ballets of George Balanchine, Twyla Tharp, and Jose Limon, the only South Carolina Company with this distinction. Although the CBT repertoire was rich with these masterpieces, the guiding forces for this prominent company was the eclectic, diverse creations of Jill Eathorne Bahr. Graduates of our school have gone on to perform with legendary dance companies such as the New York City Ballet.  

These visionary professionals promise to continue to deliver exceptional dance education,performances year after year. 






Classes We Offer

Join Our Dance Community

Primary Division

On Your Feet

Pre Ballet Age 5-6 


A Class, Age 7 & 8  


Preschool Division introduces students to the world of dance through music  and movement.  Designed to develop coordination,  musicality and  kinetic awareness.   The social skills, awareness, and  love for the arts  that students develop at CBT will follow them throughout their lives.  A prelude to formal ballet instruction, students will develop a foundation for ballet technique in a learning environment that fosters a love for dance and music. Class begins with warm-up exercises and floor stretches that develop flexibility and posture, followed by standing exercises which may be done at the ballet barre, and traveling steps to encourage development of gross motor skills. Students begin to learn French vocabulary, movement expression, and proper ballet etiquette in a  non-competitive atmosphere. Through this class students will dance to a combination of classical, folk and traditional music

2020-21 Class Times



Wed 3: 45 - 4:30

Sat 10:15 -11:00

A Class

Wed 5:00 - 6:00

Sat 11:00 - 12:00

 A Ballet Dress

Light Blue  leotard, pink tights, pink ballet shoes  Hair up

Elementary Division

Ages 9 -10

Students will learn the classical ballet vocabulary,  proper placement, flexibility, and  to accomplish correct dance movements.  Students begin , learning the basic ballet positions, the progression of a standard ballet barre, and learning the French vocabulary that defines all ballet steps.  The student moves into beginning centre work, away from the support of the ballet barre. When the student learns the ballet technique appropriate for each level and when the student's body has become strong enough to accomplish the movements taught, then at the discretion of the Artistic Director, the student moves to the next level  where more intricate steps and combinations are introduced.  Advancement is based on ability, not age. A Jazz/Tap class is also offered as an optional second weekly class for this division!


2X/per week mandatory

Optional jazz     highly suggested. 

2020- 2021  B CLASS TIMES

MON 5:00 - 6:00

WED 5:00 - 6:00

B Ballet Dress


Burgundy  leotard, pink tights, pink ballet shoes.  Hair up.   Black Jazz pants, and  shoes


Let’s Do It

​C1    Upon the discretion of the director

“C2” Age 11-14,

“D” Age 13-18  


Serious students with a high interest  in dance.  These students  are placed by faculty only. Students are expected to enjoy the  challenge and to excel in their career-track  classes.  Often students are Included in the professional productions of CBT. Participation in these classes requires a minimum of 3  classes a week, with  5-7 classes  expected for older students.  No student who takes less than 3 classes per week  will be allowed in pointe classes.  

C CLASS 2020-21

Monday 5:00 -6:30

Tuesday 5:00 -6:30

Wed 5:00 -6:30

Thursday 5:00 -6:30

  Sat. 10:00 - 11:30


D CLASS 2020-21

Monday 5:00 -6:30

Tuesday 5:00 -6:30

Wed 5:00 -6:30

Thursday y 5:00 -6:30

Sat. 10:00 - 11:30

C/D Ballet Dress

Black  leotard, pink tights,  pink ballet shoes, Hair up. Black Jazz pants, & shoes 

If you have any additional questions about our classes, get in touch and one of our staff members will gladly assist you.



This performing group provides professional performance opportunities to “elite students and aspiring young dancers”. This select group will meet twice a week with a primary focus  training in ballet technique, choreographic study, and the art of performance with unique performance opportunities

such as ‘first pick’ youth roles for the company performances.


It is directed by Resident Choreographer Jill Eathorne Bahr


  • Rehearsal process and performance experience that complete a dancer's training taking what he/she learns in the studio to the stage.An expansive repertory, ranging from full-length classical ballets to new works.

  • Multiple performance opportunities, including professionally produced stage productions and in-studio performances.

  • Opportunities to work with world class guest artists that join the productions

  • Participate in the Coastal Ballet USA Master Class Series

  • The  School's Policy for tuition or costume fees is "Requests for a refund must be made in writing and documentation from your physician must be submitted within 10 (ten) days of injury/illness"





“I am writing this recommendation to express and endorse the superb quality of training at Charleston Ballet Theatre and Coastal Ballet USA . The students are groomed to be beyond their best with expectations of acquiring a solid foundation in their professional endeavors. I see it as an academy rendering and providing careful instruction for young minds and bodies. This is the place to be for the uttermost refinement in art education and appreciation. The staff and guest faculty are the best at what they bring to the table. I deem this school to be worthy of consideration. Positive and productive work contribute to it’s purpose. "

- Dr. Mel A. Tomlinson states

Former Soloist


Get to Know Us


that helps train your child,

As your child’s dance teachers

We go into class, we give corrections, we spark inspiration, we build motivation,

we hone in on weaknesses, we highlight strengths, we speak, we command, we demand, we insist, we listen, we hear,

we adapt, we think, we create, we imagine, we ask, we answer.  

.. The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes

and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called "truth."

~ Dan Rather









One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings.   The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.”  – Carl Jung

Meet Burt and Mary in real life _idontea


497 La Mesa Rd
Suite D & E
Mt Pleasant, Charleston County 29464

843 -469-2080

  • Facebook
  • Instagram

843 -469-2080

497 La Mesa Rd
Suite D & E
Mt Pleasant, Charleston County 29464

  • Facebook
  • Instagram

Photos by Rebecca Roo Turisk, William Long, Bob Matthews , Scott Nillson, Doug Smoak and Lisa Webb.