Pursuing a career as a professional dancer takes years of intensity, focus, and hard work. These five Naples students dream of becoming professional dancers and instructors. We spoke with them to see how they are working towards their goals, navigating challenges, and reaching for success.
Jade Kessler, age 10 and a student at Dance Arts by Maria, dances as much as possible around the community and is involved on a competitive dance team. She adores her dance teachers and their role in her desire to pursue dance as a career. “The teachers inspire me to be the best dancer I can be,” she says.
Dance performances make Jade happy; this joy in competition has helped Jade commit to her dream of becoming a professional dancer. “My teacher asked me to perform a solo for this year’s competition, along with a duet for another performance! I am learning so much now and I feel well-prepared. I would like to go to a school of performing arts someday.”
Caroline Buckheit is 14 years old, trains at Backstage Dance Academy, and dances 20 hours per week. She also is involved with Gulfshore Ballet. Caroline says she is most comfortable when she is on stage performing. “I’m a quiet person by nature, but when I step on stage, it’s like I am in a different world.” Why, exactly, does Caroline desire to make a career out of dance? “It’s just something I’m so passionate about – I know I want it.”
At age 14, Caroline is well on her way to becoming a professional dancer. “I plan to join Boston Ballet’s pre-professional program in January of 2016. The path to professional dance begins in a pre-professional program, moves to a trainee program, and then to a hiring process with a company. Most often, it is necessary that you commit to this path by the age of 15.” Caroline’s path has been balanced, organized, and filled with sacrifices that remind her of her strong commitment to her passion.
Skylar Fry, age 13 and a student at Backstage Dance, has a passion for wordless expression through dance. “I love dance because I am able to express myself by moving instead of relying on words.”
Skylar willingly makes sacrifices because of her love for her fellow dancers. “I have so much fun dancing with my teammates. We work hard, laugh together, and build amazing memories along the way.” Her passion for mastering ballet has inspired her to work hard as well.
To achieve her dream of becoming a professional dancer, Skylar’s mantra is “to work hard through every class. I dance six days a week and take advantage of every opportunity at my dance studio. I realize that it is important to be challenged and learn from many different people, and I hope to attend more summer dance intensives around the country that will offer dance opportunities in a professional environment.”
Aubrey Jane Porter is 13 years old and dances at Dance Arts by Maria. She recalls the moment she first started: “I knew I loved dance when I was three years old and put on my first pair of ballet shoes. I started twirling and thought I could fly.”
Aubrey loves to be on stage bringing joy to an audience, but she is also open to pursuing a career in dance as an instructor. “I love helping little ones learn to dance,” Skylar states. “My mom says I’m a kid magnet. I love seeing how excited they get.”
Aubrey works hard throughout the year on her dance. “Mrs. Maria [owner of Dance Arts by Maria] is supportive of our dreams. She finds intensives and workshops for us to participate in throughout the year and over the summer.” To achieve her dream of becoming a professional dancer, Aubrey takes care of her body. “Eating healthy is very important. I also joined my cross country team at Gulf View Middle School last year to help with my leg strength and stamina.” Aubrey plans to attend college and major in dance and minor in education.
Erika Mogelvang is 11 years old and has been dancing since age three at Dance Arts by Maria. “The studio has supportive teachers who help you grow,” Erika notes. She loves the excitement of dance, and as she enters seventh grade, she is looking forward to pursuing a career passing on this excitement to other dance students.
Erika is pursuing those dreams by taking as many classes in various dance styles as possible and continuing to compete. “I am seeking to improve my technique and turns. I work hard as a competitive dancer. Each time I take the stage, I am a little less nervous. I just purchased my first pair of pointe shoes, so I look forward to studying that form of dance too!”
The Delicate Balance
All five of these Naples area dance students seek a delicate balance between their priorities – and all list dance and school at the top of their lists. Skylar Fry notes that, “time management is key in this balance, and I limit social time and avoid procrastination.”
Erika Mogelvang always looks ahead. “Usually,” she says, “I do homework during school or in the car. I really only have one free day a week, so I am always thinking about upcoming assignments.”
With very limited free time, it can be easy to get discouraged, but every one of these five dancers pointed to their unwavering commitment to dance. Jade Kessler has committed herself fully to the study of dance: “I had soccer, gymnastics and piano, but now I am concentrating on dance alone – taking performance technique, ballet, tap, and jazz for competition.”
One Teacher’s Advice
How much determination does it take to become a professional dancer? Ashley McLean, a dance teacher at Dance Arts by Maria, provides some helpful advice to young, aspiring dance students. “Know that this road is going to be hard. Even though you are an amazing dancer, you cannot expect to get every job for which you audition. Choreographers are looking for a certain look and style, and it is easy to get discouraged. I tell my students to be humble, and stay positive.”
There are a variety of paths to a career in dance: working on Broadway or other theater shows, dancing on cruise ships or at amusement parks, or teaching dance are all ways to create a career out of a passion. It will be interesting to watch Jade, Caroline, Skylar, Aubrey and Erika as they work towards the goal of making a career out of their dance passion!