“I was way behind the other girls that were the same age as me, and I understood very little of the ‘Vaganova’ technique, but I had this immediate draw to it and was determined to commit fully to ballet, “ Riley said.
Riley has been able to travel all over the U.S. and build networks and connections within the dance community. She has realized that new doors of opportunity will open through hard work and discipline. She has received summer intensive scholarships and secured a role as a supernumerary with the American Ballet Theatre.
Her biggest lesson in dance has been to “do it for yourself.” She acknowledges dance and ballet as a competitive world and urges others not to get caught up in rankings and score.
Currently, she is preparing for her performance of ‘Sleeping Beauty’ with the Northern Virginia Youth Ballet in which she performs several roles, including Silver Jewel Fairy, Friend of Aurora, and Vision Fairy.
Continues Riley, “Although I spend the majority of my time now in ballet, I have still found ways to bring all of my different training and experiences together, which has helped me immensely in so many ways."
From working with dancers as young as two-years-old, she learned to teach with a gentle heart, an open mind, and patience. As a freshman making the ‘top 5’ in a 15-19 year old category, her dancing and confidence matured. Watching and joining others celebrating the win of another dancer has taught her to genuinely be happy for others' achievements. Giving pep talks to her company team has taught her to believe in herself and others.
“Dancing is something everyone should be exposed to, for it truly does make you so much stronger and better of a person,” Caley said.
When Caley began dancing in 2014, she had no idea that it would transform her life. She feels that starting late in dance makes her journey even more special. She has been trained by "some of the most amazing instructors." Her dance peers embraced her with open arms, and now she considers them an extension of her family.
“Overall, the opportunities that come with dance are literally endless, and (they) have shaped me into a more experienced, well-educated artist.”
Caley believes that her dance education at En Pointe Dance & Acrobatics is limitless, and that a key to finding success is to be proud, but humble.
“I am truly so passionate about what I do, and hope it stays with me for the rest of my life.”
"It took me a while to love and appreciate myself as a dancer, but the constant push from my family, friends, and mainly God is making me stronger day by day,” she says.
Not having the body type of the “ideal” ballerina is what she considers to be the most unique facet of her dance journey. She focuses on who she is on the inside rather than comparing herself with others on the outside.
“I have been teased all my life for being short, but when people saw me dancing, they couldn't believe that this short girl could move that way.”
Dancing since age 5, Anamika has studied many types of dance, including dancehall, jazz, contemporary, flamenco, latin, hip hop, street stilettos, kathak, and Bollywood. Her favorite genre is Classical ballet. She gives it credit for making her a versatile dancer, stating that it "sets the base for all the dance styles because of the strength and control it gives a dancer."
The biggest lesson she has learned in dance is to perform your heart out like no one else is watching you and be your own competition.
When she was 10 years old her dad passed away from cancer. She started choreographing around age 15, with most of her pieces relating to her life in some way. “Choreographing made me fall in love with more than just the dancing, I loved being able to create my own work and put my own thoughts into my pieces.”
Last year she choreographed a piece called “Winter” in which she was able to channel all of her left over feelings from her dad’s passing into a beautiful dance.
“I feel the arts are so important for children to be able to let their feelings out. I love being there to be that outlet for them,” she says. She believes it is important to connect with the students you are teaching.
Teaching dance has helped her learn how to explain things in different ways so that children can better understand what is being taught. She currently choreographs for Company Elite in Pennsylvania and recently coached at the Brooklyn Arts Exchange.
Dancing has made Kendra a better individual by opening her up to so many different types of people. It has made her understand that no one is the same and that the beauty in people lies in their differences.
She has trained with the Joffrey Ballet School in NYC, traveled to California to dance with Millenium Dance Complex, participated in American Ballet Theater’s Teacher Training Program, and participated in choreography showcases around NYC to show her work.
The biggest lesson she has learned in dance is to always listen to the instructors. “Always be respectful and take what they say and fix it to the best of your ability. They will help you get where you want to go, so you should never take them for granted.”
Kendra’s dance journey has had its struggles, but she says, “When you love something so much, there isn’t any reason to give up.”
For Kendra, resilience has been key.
“I pushed through the tough times of my illness and now I am able to do what I love everyday.”
She has learned important life skills from dance, such as working hard, staying focused, time management, and the importance of nutrition. Dance has taught her perseverance. It has taught her that she can do things she didn't think she could.
She was born partially blind in her left eye, so she mostly relies on what she "feels" both physically with her feet and emotionally when she dances. Her condition, called refractive amblyopia, makes anything in the distance look like blurry shadows and colors. She has a special contact lens that helps bring clarity to closer objects.
“I want everyone who feels that they can’t do something because of a ‘disability’ to know that yes, you can. It may be a bit more of a challenge to do, but if I can, so can you,” she says. “Anything is possible if you are willing to work hard for it and not make excuses.”
The biggest lesson she has learned in ballet has been that not everyone is nice or supportive.
“Many want to tear you down, especially if they feel threatened by your abilities,” she says. She experienced bullying at her ballet school at the age of 9 by an older girl who was 12. She did not understand what was happening. She kept quiet about the verbal abuse she was suffering for over 2 months.
“When I finally told my mom, she addressed it with the school and thankfully it got sorted out.” Her self-esteem plummeted, though, and she started developing social anxiety and becoming angry.
Her and her mom decided to open a non-profit organization called The M.I.N.C. Project where they are trying to promote that it is not cool to be mean. She created the hashtag #meannessisnotcool. (M.I.N.C) and has an Instagram page, @themincproject.
“Mean and rude people have taught me to stand up for myself. I firmly believe that I will have success in anything I decide to do and still be kind to others.”
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