COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Lily Gristina, a young dancer studying at the CSU Dance Conservatory, has been invited to attend the Boston Ballet School's Summer Intensive Program.
A number attached to her leotard was the only thing that identified this talented 11-year-old during the audition in Atlanta, Ga.
The Columbus youth was one of 35 ballet dancers auditioning for the prestigious Boston Ballet School Summer Intensive.
"I enjoyed the class immensely and received correction which is always a good thing," Lily recalled of the February audition. "I thought, they are noticing me and correcting me although it doesn't mean much at these auditions because we're all fighting for the same limited number of places."
To her amazement, she was accepted into the intense, five-week summer ballet program in Boston, Mass. that will be taught by professionals from the world-renowned Boston Ballet School.
The news came in the form of an email following her first year of auditioning for summer intensives. Lily began ballet instruction at age three, and she sees it as an honor and a privilege to be accepted. The process of auditions can be very scary to a young student, but her Royal Academy of Dance trained teacher and CSU Dance Conservatory Director, Lisa Carter, encouraged her to audition regardless of the outcome.
"I thought the audition would be a great learning experience," stated Carter. "Students go into a strange studio with an unfamiliar teacher, and they're surrounded by other students they don't even know. It's an incredibly steep learning curve but equally necessary in preparing for a career in ballet."
Auditions for the summer intensive were held all over the United States, and only 20 dance students are accepted from each of four skill levels. According to Carter, the Boston Ballet School selects only dancers with the potential to become professionals.
"They must be strong, flexible, have the correct build, and be well schooled in classical ballet. They choose only the most talented, and most highly trained children who are going to be professional dancers later on," Carter said. "It's extremely competitive."
Lily works daily to realize her dream of becoming a professional ballet dancer and of someday turning her love of ballet into a professional career. She practices six days a week year-round at the CSU Dance Conservatory with some of the same classmates she has known since her first years of dance training. Ballet is an intense athletic and intellectual endeavor that takes up every moment of her spare time, but the level of training is very rewarding to this young student.
"I don't think she will be homesick while she's in Boston. She's going to be too busy," said Lily's mom Joanne Gristina. "I'll miss her every minute she's away."
The five-week intensive program includes a tight schedule of instruction five days a week with enrichment opportunities on the weekends, such as trips to a professional ballet company and to exhibitions.
Gristina has never spent this long away from home, so it will be a big step for her, but her conservatory teachers say she is strong, disciplined, committed, hard-working, smart and extremely musical student.