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Area teens reach for big-city ballet dreams

Girls, boys who’ve spent years hoping to dance at the School of American Ballet try again

By Elisabeth Arriero
earriero@charlotteobserver.com

Stretching in a studio during this year’s School of American Ballet auditions in Charlotte on Sunday, Jenny Palmer, 16, of Raleigh said she hoped that the third time would be a charm.

“I just want to give it another go and see what happens,” said Palmer, who also auditioned for the school in 2010 and 2011. “I think I’m more mentally prepared this time.”

Palmer was one of more than 80 dancers auditioning for a spot in the School of American Ballet’s summer course. The school is hosting auditions across the country through Jan. 27.

The school, which is based in New York City, is considered one of the top classical ballet schools in the world and is the associate school of the New York City Ballet.

Although she’s been rejected twice before, Palmer said this year she had a plan: Wear a bright, pink leotard.

“Maybe it will help me stand out,” she said.

As teenagers like Palmer waited for their auditions to begin, those between the ages of 12 and 14 were already halfway through a grueling two-hour class and audition before 27-year School of American Ballet instructor Susan Pilarre.

“Classical ballet is like being an athlete and a model,” Pilarre said. “It’s about beauty of movement and strength. That’s what we’re looking for.”

Twins Logan and Lydia Acker, 12, were among those auditioning in the auditorium.

“They love the discipline and structure that ballet offers. They really thrive on that discipline,” the twins’ mother, Liz Acker of Greenville, S.C., said.

Acker said this is the first year the twins have been able to audition, and she tried to prepare them by telling them to have fun with it.

“This is a chance to learn new choreography and to have fun,” she said. “What’s meant to be will be.”

Dancers are expected to hear whether they are selected in the next week.

Aimee Anderson of Raleigh said she took her daughter to three auditions over the weekend for summer programs at School of American Ballet, Harid Conservatory in Boca Raton, Fla., and the Boston Ballet School.

Anderson said that while she danced in college, her 14-year-old daughter, Peyton Anderson, has thrown herself even more deeply into the art.

“She can’t walk from Point A to Point B. She has to dance, flip, float, spin and twirl her way,” she said. “She’s a natural performer. This is her first choice. She really wants to get in this program.”

Arriero: 704-777-7070; Twitter: @earriero
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