Minnie Wright instructs a student to “get her core in” during ballet class at Miss Minnie’s School of Ballet. (Emily Russo Miller Photo)
After 40 years of teaching ballet in Roswell, Minnie Wright will retire her ballet slippers and take a final bow on stage this upcoming spring.
The owner of Miss Minnieâ€™s School of Ballet, a petite blonde who nearly always keeps her hair pinned up neatly in a bun, says she plans on moving into her Ruidoso summer home permanently after her last recital in June.
â€œItâ€™s been a great life. Iâ€™m so fortunate,â€â€ˆWright, 78, said. â€œBut Iâ€™m getting to a stage where I just want some time for me.â€
Wright, a Roswell native, began tap dancing when she was 8 years old after her mother saw a Shirley Temple movie.
â€œEverybody that had a daughter thought she was Shirley Temple,â€â€ˆWright laughed, adding that her mother used to dress her up and curl her hair just like Templeâ€™s.
At the time, she and her family were living in Long Beach, Calif., where her parents worked in the shipyards to help with the World War II effort.
She says, luckily, a ballet class was required at the studio in order to tap dance, and the rest is history.
When she returned to Roswell as a teenager, she enrolled in the only dance studio here at the time, owned by Zelma Russ McEvoy. She says she danced every day for the next 10 years, performing in recitals and at air shows at the old Walker Air Force Base.
In 1962, Wright opened her first studio, Dancing Hearts, on Sycamore Avenue and Second Street, after years of moonlighting as a private dance instructor in the basement of her house.
Then in 1985, she transformed old military barracks for the Air Force Base on East 19th Street, into Miss Minnieâ€™s School of Ballet. The facility has four studios (three ballet and one tap studio with wooden floors) and eight dance instructors. Thousands of pictures of former students line the hallways.
The ballerina never had much of a commute to work â€” she built an addition in the back of the facility for living space.
â€œI hear some noise, and thatâ€™s how I know the kids are here,â€ she said.
Her kitchen is complete with a pink toaster, pink coffee-pot, pink electric mixing bowl and pink-and-white trimmed cabinets. Figurines of ballerinas stand atop her pink microwave. Posters of ballet slippers adorn the walls of her bedroom, as does a mirror that spans the length of one wall, just like a ballet studio.
Wright says she will miss the students most of all, but knows they are in good hands with her successor, Kim Castro. Castro, a master dance instructor at the studio and a former student of Wrightâ€™s, will take over as studio manager and operator of Miss Minnieâ€™s School of Ballet upon Wrightâ€™s retirement.
Wright says she looks forward to spending time with her children, 12 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. But giving up dance instruction might be difficult.
â€œDance has been my life. I didnâ€™t choose dance, dance chose me,â€ she said. â€œI have had the greatest life ever.â€
Wrightâ€™s last dance recital will be on June 10, 11 and 12 at the Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell auditorium.