RATHDRUM – When Clara wakes up from her dream in the “The Nutcracker,” she finds the exciting experiences she remembered were but a dream. When Kelsey Piva wakes up from her dreams, the 13-year old Rathdrum girl finds the exciting things she dreamed about are real.
Last summer she spent five weeks in New York City, studying with the American School of Ballet, and she recently danced the part of Clara in “The Nutcracker” with the Alberta Ballet and the Spokane Symphony – for the second time.
A tiny, soft-spoken young woman, Piva has worked hard to make these dreams come true, adding her dance practices and rehearsals to the everyday demands of being an eighth-grader at Lakeland Junior High School. After school each day, she travels to the Coeur d’Alene Ballet School for classical ballet lessons. Once a week, a jazz class follows at Dance Unlimited in Newman Lake; and her weekends are taken up with ballet rehearsals on Saturday and jazz rehearsals on Sunday.
“I have to budget my time, and sometimes I have to miss things,” said Piva, who has not only begun a successful career in ballet, but was also on the first quarter honor roll with a 4.0 grade-point average. She credits her success to staying focused and a lot of help from her family. “My mom takes me to ballet every single day – all those practices; and, agreeing to let me go to New York – that was a lot of support,” she said.
Twelve is a magic age for ballerinas, the age at which the ballet world begins to open up to them, giving them the chance to compete for scholarships to concentrated training sessions called “intensives” at major ballet schools. Although Piva was offered a scholarship to a New York-based summer intensive program at age 12, her parents chose to wait until she was a little older for the experience. But this year, when she received a scholarship offer from the School of American Ballet following her audition in Seattle at Pacific Northwest Ballet, they allowed her to go.
Piva said the five weeks she spent in New York City studying ballet last summer was “an amazing experience.” She said she was less nervous than she thought she would be because other girls she knew from “The Nutcracker” and other ballet experiences were there at the same time, “so we did a lot of things together – and just knowing people helped,” she said.
In fact, the entire New York experience was thrilling for her. “It was exciting to be offered a scholarship by the School of the American Ballet and it was exciting because it was my first trip to New York City,” she said. She’s proud of the fact she got accepted to the school that is affiliated with the New York City Ballet. “At the summer intensives everybody said ‘that’s the big one – it’s really elite.’ ”
Piva said winning the auditions, and dancing the part of Clara for the past two years has also been a highlight of her career. She found this second year more enjoyable than her first. “I could enjoy it more,” she said of the experience. “I could really focus on the acting because I already knew the choreography.”
She said this year’s audience was the biggest she had ever performed in front of, and shared her excitement at getting the chance “to dance with professionals, and get the experience of what it would be like if you were in a company.” “The professional dancers were wonderful,” she said. “They gave us little encouragements and even talked about when they were young dancers.”
Although it is a lot of work, Piva said she enjoys dancing. She especially likes learning new things at the summer intensives and has a lot of fun traveling to different competitions with her jazz group. Away from dance, she enjoys doing “artsy things,” like singing, acting and drama.
Although she does enjoy these other forms of dance and performing, the ballerina who began classical training at age 6, sees herself remaining a classical dancer – a classical dancer with big dreams – and the determination to make them come true. She recently won the lead part in her ballet school’s end-of-the-year program, “Firebird.”
The hours spent traveling to and from the practices and rehearsals for her performance, will give her lots of time to dream. “It would be really nice to belong to the New York Ballet and have the lead part in Swan Lake,” said Piva, who may just wake up someday to find her dreams are still true.
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