Check out our Q&A with Lydia Greene, Charlotte Ballet Academy alum!

We have an awesome Academy alumni spotlight to share with you today! Lydia Greene was a Pre-Professional at Charlotte Ballet Academy and went on to earn her Ph.D. in Ecology from Duke University in 2019. Now she works at the Duke Lemur Center as a research scientist. Read on and find out how studying the lemur gut microbiome links back to the ballet world!

Bianca Bonner, far left

What are your hobbies outside of dance?

Interestingly, I now consider dance a hobby. I’m a scientist by profession, and I avidly participate in the arts outside of work. During non-pandemic times, I sing in classical choir and take the occasional adult ballet class. I also spend as much time as I can hiking and running in nature. For my science, I do field work to observe lemurs in mountainous regions of Madagascar, and it is way more enjoyable when I’m more physically fit. I have to say, ballet training and conditioning has come in handy for field work, especially when trying to cross rivers on narrow logs or scramble down paths of slick mud.

What inspires you?

Classical music. I grew up in an apartment teeming with classical music in New York City. Both my parents are classical musicians by trade. I always connected most to ballet through the music. It’s no wonder that some of my favorite ballets (Midsummer, Serenade, Divert No. 15, Concerto Barocco) are set to Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, Mozart, and Bach. As a scientist, classical music permeates my work. I listen to music while writing, running statistical analyses or lab work, and even while observing animals in the field (while my batteries last!).

The lemurs I work with are also a huge source of inspiration, as are the many students I’ve had the opportunity to mentor through the years.

What’s a memorable dance moment for you?

I was very lucky to be part of the corps in Serenade, set by Patricia McBride, at Charlotte Ballet back in 2005. Indeed, many of my best memories from my time in Charlotte are those in the studio with Jerri Kumery, Kati Hanlon Mayo, Heather Ferranti, and Patti – all strong women and kind mentors.

Advice for young dancers?

There’s a really big and fascinating world out there: Experience as much of it as you can.

What have you been up to since your time at Charlotte Ballet?

I left Charlotte Ballet in 2006, and I cannot believe it’s been 15 years! By the end of my time at Charlotte Ballet, I was slowly coming to terms with the painful realization that professional ballet was not for me. I loved dancing in high school, but as a trainee at Charlotte Ballet, I found I missed the breadth of learning experience that academic school had offered. I decided to quit professional ballet and look for a new path. I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of fear that such a path might not exist for me.

Fast forward and I ended up earning my B.S. degree in Evolutionary Anthropology from Duke University in 2011. While in college, I worked at the Duke Lemur Center, a site committed to the study, care, and conservation of lemurs. The animals totally fascinated me, and I’ve been studying them ever since. Now, I can’t imagine my life without lemur science. I earned my Ph.D. in Ecology from Duke in 2019 and wrote my dissertation on the gut microbiome and nutrition of leaf-eating lemurs. Although it might not seem as such, my studying the lemur gut microbiome is a direct link back to the ballet world. I had always struggled with nutrition and weight and now I study how gut microbes promote nutrition in animals with specialized diets. Go figure!