Rachel Hickman 14 ~ Burklyn Ballet Theatre Scholarship
Whenever I am stressed out or discouraged about something, all I have to do is dance for a little while and I feel better. I have been dancing since I was about three years old; in March I will turn fifteen. Over the last eleven years, most of my training has been in classical ballet, but some of it has been in contemporary too. I find joy in being able to dance in an environment where I feel like I can truly be myself and not be compared or judged.
I attended Burklyn Ballet Theatre for the first time last summer for two weeks and I loved every minute of it because there was no pressure to be someone you were not. The teachers and counselors were genuinely interested in getting to know you and teaching you more about dance and becoming a better person as a whole. In past summers, I have attended Interlochen’s general arts program (including dance), Milwaukee Ballet’s Intermediate Program, and my own studio’s workshops with my teacher, Susan Clark.
I am excited about planning to attend Burklyn for three weeks this summer. I plan to continue dancing in my hometown civic company, Midland Festival Ballet, until the end of high school. I have participated in Regional Dance America for the last three years. In May of this year, I will be going to the National Dance America festival in Montreal, Canada for one week. Here I will have the chance to watch other civic companies perform and take classes from accomplished teachers; I also hope that this trip will open up further opportunities for me in the future.
In the next two years, I want to learn how to more clearly express the emotions in the pieces I perform for an audience. I am also working on strengthening my core and leg muscles; I realize that because I am naturally hyper-extended and somewhat flexible, I really need to focus on strengthening myself so that I can have more control over my movement.
I absolutely loved my time spent at Burklyn this past summer; everyone there is so enthralled with dance and they love to share their knowledge and passion for it. There were many dancers there who had danced with me the summer before at Burklyn, so it was great to see them again and become closer friends with them. I attended Burklyn for three weeks this time, instead of two, which means that I performed in three weekly performances. I also had a different set of master teachers every week. Saturday’s Class was the first piece I was in and I really enjoyed being a part of it because the choreographers, Ashley Nemeth and Joanne Whitehill, were creating it from scratch over the course of the week. I danced in Paquita the following week, which was fun because my teacher at home refers to it often. Lastly, I performed Mrs. Whitehill’s Midnight Blue.
My master teachers included Arthur Leeth, Joseph Goodman, Helen Starr, Alun Jones, and Robert Mills. They are all brilliant teachers and I learned countless things from them and the other main teachers there. I learned that every dancer should have tenacity in his or her movements; to think about a saut de chat as having a fondu effect to get an extra ‘pop’ at the top; and also how to listen more closely to the music and experiment with musicality. I also feel that my legs are much stronger and I am more aware of how they are working. Since Burklyn is a performing camp as well, the teachers really focused on the use of head and arms, which will help me considerably in the upcoming season along with my new mental checklist of the corrections I received.
Another thing I realized about going to a summer camp is that no one there quite knows what you’re good at for a while; there are fewer prejudices about what you can do. When I realized this, I tried to take advantage of it and I worked hard to make my jumps higher. Now, back at home, my jumps have gotten better because that was one thing I wanted people to think I could do well at camp. The feeling was just different knowing that no one exactly knew what I was good or bad at; I just had a chance to show them what I could really do. One of my disasters was definitely doing the pantomime for Carabosse in front of class with Alun Jones. I am pretty bad at being a mean character anyway and the fact that we were critiquing each other didn’t help my nerves at all. The first time I did it, I was pretty awful, but then Mr. Jones told us never to have any inhibitions in class and it slowly got a little better.
I had a major revelation in my approach at dance this summer too. Robert Mills told me that I had to adjust my work ethic if I wanted to get a lot better. He said that the worst thing that could happen would be that I turn 16 or 17 and only then realize that dancing was my passion and what I wanted to do in life. Then it would be too late to really improve. This really scared me because that is just a year or two away, but I am very grateful that he told me that because now I am trying to change the way I work and approach dance. His talk also made me think seriously about my future and now I believe that I do want to pursue dancing at a professional level. This experience was probably the biggest surprise to me because I absolutely believed that I was working hard and doing everything I could to become better, but now I know that there is so much more that I can do. The dancers there were also big inspirations to me because they all truly love what they do and they are so dedicated. It was exhilarating to be in an environment completely like that and I felt very lucky to be there. There is no doubt that I would recommend this scholarship to another dancer; it was truly a wonderful experience.