“How lucky I am…” School of American Ballet

Well, I have been home for about three weeks now, and I have had plenty of time to reflect on the five weeks I spent at The School of American Ballet Summer Course 2013 in New York City. I have thought about what I learned while I was at SAB, what I took away from my experience, and how my time there will help me as an aspiring ballerina. I am grateful for the time I spent at SAB and everything I learned, and even though is was only five weeks, it had a huge impact on me.

The School of American Ballet Summer Course 2013 was definitely one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I spent five weeks immersed in the Balanchine style (which was new to me), taking classes from incredible teachers who were both former (Peter Martins, Kay Mazzo, Suki Schorer, Susan Pilarre, Darci Kistler, Jock Soto, Katrina Killian, Yvonne Borree) and current (Megan Fairchild, Ashley Bouder, Abi Stafford, and Jonathan Stafford) New York City Ballet principal dancers. I was thrilled to be placed in the highest level and was honored to be selected by Troy Schumacher to dance in the Summer Choreographic Workshop. I learned several variations from the vast Balanchine repertoire. I made lots of great, new friends from all over the country, many of whom I keep in contact with on almost a daily basis. I developed a special connection and friendship with Ashley Laracey, current NYCB soloist, and we have had many conversations since I have been home. Ashley has become an amazing friend who gives me support, encouragement, advice, and insight. I had the chance to see professional ballets (including New York City Ballet in Saratoga) and Broadway musicals, go on tours and visit museums, and explore parts of New York City I hadn’t seen before. I also enjoyed a sense of freedom (as well as maturity and responsibility) that goes along with living away from home.

I realize how lucky I am to have been able to attend The School of American Ballet Summer Course 2013 since over 2000 dancers audition for the summer course each year and only 200 are selected to attend. Spending five weeks at SAB confirmed that a career in ballet is definitely what I want to pursue and New York City is where I want to be. During my time there, I learned a lot about the Balanchine style and a lot about myself as a dancer. I learned how important a deep plié, musicality, and a connection to the music are. I learned that I can move faster than I thought I could to perform the sharp, quick movements that are trademarks of the Balanchine style. I learned that I need to be confident in myself and my abilities when I am in a class full of dancers who are older and more experienced than I am. I know my time at the School of American Ballet and everything I experienced there will help me continue to grow as a dancer.

Olivia at the School of American Ballet

I brought a lot home with me from New York City, both literally and figuratively. Along with the souvenirs of my summer and many pairs of dead pointe shoes, I also brought home with me invaluable knowledge and experience, amazing memories, and incredible friendships I hope will last forever. Five weeks was not long enough, and I was definitely not ready for it to end, but I am grateful for the time I had at the School of American Ballet. I think about my experience and miss it everyday, but I know, in the words of Winnie the Pooh, “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

“Smile…” School of American Ballet

We had a different schedule on Thursday because of the workshop performance that evening. In the morning I had ballet with New York City Ballet principal Abi Stafford. After class we had to grab a quick lunch because we had rehearsal from 2:00-3:00pm. After rehearsal I went down to the lobby to see my mom who had flown in that afternoon. I got to spend a few minutes with her before I had to head back to the studio to warm up.

The first workshop performance started at 5:00pm and was mostly for the parents of the students who were in the two pieces. Silas Farley’s piece went first. It was a very pretty, very serious piece, and the dancers were dressed in black and white. Troy Schumacher’s piece (the one I was in) was second, and it was completely different. It was called “Cut Capers,” and it was upbeat, fun, and playful. We were all dressed in brightly colored leotards, etc. It went really well, and it was so much fun to dance! Our second performance was for donors to the School of American Ballet, as well as some of the faculty. I felt like the second performance was as good as the first, and I was really hoping Troy and Ashley (Troy’s fiancé NYCB soloist, Ashley Laracey, who had helped us during all the rehearsals) were happy with it.

After the performance, we talked and took pictures. Troy and Ashley gave each of us chocolate and a personal note to thank us for our participation in the workshop. Everyone was laughing and hugging and saying goodbye. The end of the workshop was bittersweet. I was so happy to have been a part of the workshop and Troy’s awesome piece, but I was so sad to tell Troy and Ashley goodbye. I had tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat as I hugged Ashley.

After it was all over, my mom and I walked around Lincoln Center and grabbed a quick dinner. I was feeling very emotional and not very hungry. I knew that in less than 48 hours the SAB Summer Course 2013 would be over, and that made me very sad. After dinner my mom walked me back to my dorm, and we said goodbye. I headed up to my room to start packing. Friday my mom came back to SAB to observe my classes. I had ballet with Katrina Killian, and then we ate lunch in the cafeteria. My last class of the summer was variations (also with Katrina Killian), and we worked on a variation from Sleeping Beauty.

Friday evening the School of American Ballet hosted an end of the summer course party for all the students in one of the studios. We laughed and danced and took lots of pictures and started saying our goodbyes. It was fun but sad at the same time.

Saturday morning was checkout. My mom came to get me and helped me finish packing up my bedding. It was crowded with all the people and their luggage, but it actually went pretty smoothly. I was still saying some goodbyes as we left the building for the last time. My mom and I took a cab to the apartment where she had been staying to drop my luggage off, then we headed out to shop and eat lunch on our last day in NYC. Then we went back to our apartment and spent the evening getting ready for our 6:00am flight back to Indianapolis the next morning.

I can’t believe my 5 weeks at the School of American Ballet Summer Course 2013 is already over. It was one of the best experiences of my life, and it went by way too fast. I worked hard, learned a lot, and made so many great friends (including my new best friend). As I look back on my experience, I have to remind myself, in the words of an anonymous proverb, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”Olivia at the School of American Ballet