Amelia (Mia) Marion is a sophomore at Springfield Township High School and has been a ballet dancer for 12 years. In addition to school, she is currently a student at the School of Pennsylvania Ballet, training under Arantxa Ochoa, former principal of PA Ballet. Last summer Mia was fortunate enough to have been accepted to the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School in NYC (American Ballet Theatre) where she trained. This summer she will be attending Boston Ballet as the next step to ultimately becoming a professional ballerina.
After learning of Mia’s accomplishments we asked her some questions about her ballet history and the effort it takes to pursue a career in ballet. Below are her responses:
What is your history in ballet?
I started ballet at age four at a recreational level and continued to dance for fun until around age twelve, when I decided this was something I really wanted to commit myself to. From that point on, I began to train intensively.
Did you start somewhere locally?
I started dancing at a small but excellent school in Mount Airy called Philadelphia Dance Theatre under the direction of Joy Delaney Capponi, who trained with Olin Kearse and the Joffrey ballet. I trained there until age fifteen, when I auditioned for the School of the Pennsylvania Ballet, located downtown around Arch and Vine Street. I was accepted to the summer intensive program, and a few weeks later I returned to audition for the year round program, which I was also accepted into, and placed into level five of seven levels. Once there, the director chose to move me up to level six.
Could you describe each of the training programs you entered?
The summer before I entered ninth grade, when I was fourteen, I attended a summer program called Kaatsbaan Extreme Ballet for three weeks, located in upstate New York near Rhinebeck. It was run by Martine Van Hamel, who is thought of as one of the greatest ballerinas of the twentieth century, and who was a former American Ballet Theatre principal dancer.
This previous summer I had the amazing honor of attending the Jacquelyn Kennedy Onassis School for American Ballet Theatre’s summer session. For five weeks I danced in front of former principals from ABT and Franco De Vito, the man who runs the school during the year.
Later in the summer, I attended three weeks at the School of the Pennsylvania Ballet.
This summer, I have been accepted to and will be attending Boston Ballet summer intensive.
How many people typically enter these summer programs?
Depending on the summer program, the number of students changes. At Kaatsbaan, only around 40 girls were attending the session. ABT New York is a more sought out and popular program, so there were around 150 – 200 girls from all over the world in that program.
Do you have to audition for them?
Auditions are required for almost all ballet summer intensive programs. Audition season is usually in January and February and I try to audition for between 3 and 6 each year on top of my regular dance schedule. Some of the programs are very competitive as they often hold auditions in 10 to 12 cities as well as accept international audition tapes. PA ballet accepts few students for the summer, and even fewer for the year round program. ABT New York is a very prestigious program, and is thought to be one of the top 5 schools in the country, so more than 1,000 dancers will audition but only around 200 will gain admission.
How much time and effort do you put into ballet?
Monday through Friday, I get on the train right after school for a 35 minute train ride to center city followed by a fifteen minute walk to the studio. I typically will have a two and a half hour technique class everyday, followed by either an extra ballet class, Pilates, stretch and conditioning class, rehearsal or a Modern dance class. Then, it is home by 9:30pm to start homework for school. I am at the studio on Saturdays from about 10am to 3pm, but sometimes stay for workshops or rehearsals. Sunday is my day of rest and homework catch up. On the days when school (STHS) is out, if the director approves of it, I take the train to the city in the morning so I can take class with the Company members of the Pennsylvania Ballet, later attending rehearsal if there is one that day.
What are you future goals, and is professional ballet part of them?
My ultimate aspiration is to be a professional ballerina. It is very hard to be hired in the ballet world, and once hired, it is just as difficult to stay injury free and dancing. It will take a lot of hard work, long nights, determination and tenacity to reach my goal, but I feel that I am definitely up to the challenge. There is nothing that compares to the feeling I get when I dance, and nothing that makes me happier. I could not imagine wanting to spend my life any other way!
Thank you to Mia’s proud mom, Amanda, for sharing her daughter’s accomplishments with us!