A Year-Round Guide to Franklin and Nantahala

James Kopecky is a man in motion. Even when he’s seated, you get the feeling that he might just take a flying leap right out of his seat. Indeed, it’s

Rosemary and Goat Cheese Strata

James Kopecky is a man in motion. Even when he’s seated, you get the feeling that he might just take a flying leap right out of his seat. Indeed, it’s

On-Stage Magic in Charlotte

James Kopecky is a man in motion. Even when he’s seated, you get the feeling that he might just take a flying leap right out of his seat. Indeed, it’s not unusual for Kopecky, a male ballet dancer in his eighth season with Charlotte Ballet, to be airborne. He exudes an impressive mix of energy, grace, and precision in his performances. Being on stage is thrilling, Kopecky says, and he’s amazed by all the creative opportunities he has with Charlotte Ballet.

In addition to classical ballet, Charlotte Ballet performs mixed repertoires that allow dancers more room for innovation. “I grew up admiring the work of choreographer Jiří Kylián,” Kopecky says, “so I was delighted to dance in Kylián’s Forgotten Land in my first show with Charlotte Ballet.”

Such contemporary pieces are still in balletic form, but the choreographic process for the dancers is more interactive. Many of the pieces involve improvisation. “Sometimes the choreographers draw their choreography from what the dancers improvise,” Kopecky explains. “It’s led improvisation: They’ll tell us what to think or to do, or what to have in mind when we try something, and then they’ll build on what we do. It’s a more collaborative form of dance.”

Kopecky and his wife moved to the Queen City from the West Coast because of the city’s many attractions, and they haven’t been disappointed. “It’s a great place to settle down and raise a family,” he says. “We’ve got a little bit of everything we wanted here.” And when he’s not on stage he loves to get out to see other performers in action. Read on for his top recommendations of where to go for some of the best Charlotte performances.


See a performance at the Knight Theater. photograph by Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority

The Grace of Ballet

Kopecky and his talented Charlotte Ballet colleagues perform Peter Pan onstage in April at the 1,192-seat Knight Theater. In Charlotte Ballet II Director Christopher Stuart’s new look on this beloved classic, guests will be whisked away to Neverland, where they’ll discover the magic of Peter Pan’s early years.

To give audiences a taste of contemporary dance, Charlotte Ballet’s Choreographic Lab returns in June for its fourth season to the intimate, 197-seat Center for Dance black box theatre. Choreographic Lab showcases the creative and collaborative talent of emerging artists in an evening of short pieces. The ballet brings new works to Charlotte every year while also keeping the classics, like The Nutcracker, alive during the holiday season.


Song & Dance

The largest of the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center theaters, the Belk Theater regularly hosts Charlotte’s Broadway Lights series, the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, and other world-class acts.

A brilliant fiber-optic network of 2,400 dazzling “points of light” fills the ceiling of the audience chamber, and the European horseshoe arrangement enables each of the 2,100 guests to be no farther than 135 feet from the stage. Upcoming musicals include Aladdin, Into the Woods, and Annie.


Listen to the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra at Symphony Park during Summer Pops. photograph by Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority

On Stage & in the Park

In addition to the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra’s traditional offerings, such as Rachmaninoff and Dvořák, guests can watch classic movies on the big screen at the Belk Theatre with the musical score performed live. Spring selections include The Princess Bride and Raiders of the Lost Ark.

If you’re in the mood for a more casual outdoor concert experience, pack a picnic and head to Symphony Park for Charlotte Symphony Orchestra’s Summer Pops. The summer season should be announced in April.

Younger music lovers will find enchantment at the hour-long Charlotte Symphony Orchestra Family Series concerts, which are ideal for children ages 4 through 9. May’s concert at the Knight Theater introduces young listeners to Tchaikovsky and his masterworks, from the 1812 Overture to The Nutcracker and Swan Lake.


See national acts at Neighborhood Theatre in NoDa. Photography courtesy of Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority

Small Spaces, Big Talent

For big talent on a smaller stage, Kopecky suggests the Visulite Theatre. This neighborhood theater has a capacity of 540 and features a full bar in the back. It’s a great spot to see national acts in a setting he describes as “intimate and relaxed,” but also lively. The audience can get close to the music at the standing room in the front or choose an elevated table behind. Dine out beforehand at one of the many restaurants nearby.

The Neighborhood Theatre in the NoDa (North Davidson) neighborhood is another favorite local stage for national acts. This recently renovated historic theater gave new life to an old building. Astor Theater (built in 1945) closed in the 1970s and was restored and repurposed as a live music venue in the ’90s. Explore NoDa while you’re out: The historic arts district is crammed full of charming shops, eclectic galleries, and must-try restaurants.


On the Field & Court

Kopecky also loves live sports, where he describes the athletes as “a living thing trying to accomplish something together.” You can witness this dance of raw power and athletic grace at Charlotte’s larger venues. For basketball, check out the indoor Spectrum Center arena, home to the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets. Get close enough to the floor to appreciate the athleticism of the players and savor the electric energy of almost 20,000 fans.

For outdoor contests, head to Charlotte’s largest venue, Bank of America Stadium. With a capacity of 75,000 guests, BOA Stadium is home to the NFL’s Carolina Panthers and the newly minted Charlotte Football Club.

Kopecky recently took his 4-year-old daughter to a Charlotte Football Club game, and he was pleased to see lots of other kids there, too. “We weren’t the only family with this crazy idea,” he says. “My daughter has been chanting ‘Charlotte-F-C!!’ ever since!”


Cool off in the rapids at the U.S. National Whitewater Center. photograph by Justin Gollmer

Get in on the Action

If all the world’s a stage, as Shakespeare famously penned, the U.S. National Whitewater Center is a wonderful place to watch a different kind of play. Kopecky recommends this 1,300-acre property on the outskirts of Charlotte as a fantastic family destination to hike, people-watch, and enjoy the beauty of the outdoors.

The Whitewater Center is a playground for children and adults alike. Guests can explore 50 miles of trails, paddle on kayaks or SUPs, ride the whitewater, run, swim, climb high ropes and rock walls, jump from dizzying heights, or cycle around the park. Spring and summer bring River Jam, a free, recurring live music festival, as well as outdoor films, open-water swimming, and adventure camps for kids.

For a more relaxed visit, take a lazy stroll and find a seat in the restaurant with a beverage of your choice. Be entertained by the whir of movement on the ground, in the air, and in the water.

There’s so much to experience in the Queen City, and so many stages to explore. Take your pick from these incredible venues for unforgettable entertainment.

This story was published on Mar 30, 2023

Alysia Yates

Alysia Yates is a writer, editor, and outdoor enthusiast. She lives with her family in Raleigh, where you can find her on the Greenways or in her favorite coffee shop.