June 21, 2007 in Voices

Ballet turns into life passion

Stefanie Pettit Correspondent
Christopher Anderson photo

Adrienne Bot, who recently completed sixth grade at Hutton Elementary School, works on her skills at Ballet Arts Dance Academy. Bot has been selected to attend the School of American Ballet in New York City this summer.
(Full-size photo)

Area students in summer programs

» In recent years, ballet students from the Inland Northwest have been gaining greater notice in the world of ballet.

» Dodie Askegard, owner of Ballet Arts Dance Academy, said many talented young dancers from the area are being selected when national companies hold regional auditions in Seattle.

» She noted several who will have summer intensive experiences this year.

» Also attending the School of American Ballet summer intensive this summer in New York City with Adrienne Bot will be Kelsey Piva, who just completed seventh grade at Lakeland Junior High School in Rathdrum, Idaho, and who danced the role of Clara in the most recent production of “The Nutcracker” in Spokane.

» Amanda Cochran, who just graduated from Ferris High School (while also earning an Associate of Arts college degree), is going to the Pittsburgh Ballet not just for the summer, but for the next ballet season as well.

» Leyna Swoboda, who will be a senior at Lewis and Clark High School in the fall and who danced the role of Clara in “The Nutcracker” in Spokane for four years, is attending a summer intensive at the Joffrey Ballet School in New York City.

» Jordyn Richter, who just completed her junior year at Mead High School and is also a Running Start college student, is one of only 25 students from across the nation selected for a Suzanne Farrell workshop in Washington, D.C., this summer. She is receiving a full scholarship.

» Ina Tanzer, who just completed his freshman year at Cheney High School, has been chosen for a Boston Ballet summer intensive (he attended a Pacific Northwest Ballet summer intensive last year).

– Stefanie Pettit

Adrienne Bot was a sickly baby, in and out of the intensive care unit several times while just a toddler.

“We knew how sick she was but not why,” said her mother, Melanie Bot.

Diagnosed with asthma and allergic to 46 things (including eggs and peanuts), Adrienne needed careful supervision and appropriate medication.

The youngest of eight Bot children, all of whom were involved in a myriad of sports, Adrienne, too, needed some way to remain physically fit, but not in the rough-and-tumble way that worked for her siblings.

So, at age 3, she began ballet. And now, at age 12, she is preparing to leave for five weeks at the prestigious School of American Ballet (SAB) summer intensive in New York City, living at the Lincoln Center, where she will study with some of the best in the world of ballet.

SAB is considered a “feeder school” for the New York City Ballet, where Adrienne hopes one day to become a principal dancer.

It does not accept students younger than 12 into its summer intensives, so Adrienne, who just completed sixth grade at Hutton Elementary School, may well be one of the youngest girls from the Inland Northwest ever to attend.

Begun as a means to provide her with appropriate exercise, ballet has developed into a passion for Adrienne, a passion that requires intense focus and hard work, all of which she delivers with enthusiasm.

She has ballet classes six days a week and admits she’d like it better if she could dance on Sundays, too.

“She is so driven in what she wants to do and has such control over her body,” said Dodie Askegard, owner of Ballet Arts Dance Academy, where Adrienne studies.

“We can’t keep her out of the studio. She comes in an hour early and, while many of the other students socialize, she exercises, works on her flexibility, strengthening her feet and does abdominal exercises.”

“The abs are the most important,” Adrienne said. “They keep your shape and balance as it should be.

“Without strong abs, you can’t do on stage what you need to do.”

Askegard said Adrienne has a special presence. When her brother Charles Askegard, a principal dancer for the New York City Ballet, choreographed a number for Ballet Arts, he picked Adrienne for it “because of her talent and enthusiasm.”

Ballet makes Adrienne happier than anything.

“When I’m dancing, I feel joy, and I look forward to it every day,” said Adrienne, who understudied the role of Clara in the Alberta Ballet production of “The Nutcracker,” which was performed in Spokane this past winter.

Although ballet consumes most of her time, she doesn’t see it as a sacrifice at all. Adrienne still manages time for piano and violin, is a straight-A student and has understanding friends who sometimes are able to schedule social events around her ballet schedule.

“Some people may think that I miss out on a lot,” she said, “but while others are going to parties, I get to dance.

“And I get to go to New York to do what I love. I am honored and grateful for the opportunity.”

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