Zillions of little girls take dance lessons and daydream of becoming graceful ballerinas. But only a handful have the dedication and hard work to make those dreams come true.
Kathryn Lindow may be one of those few.
The 12-year-old from Kenai has been selected to attend the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School Professional Division this summer. The prestigious international program only accepts about 100 students per year, based on audition performances.
"It is awesome," Kathryn said of the summer school.
The program gives youngsters from sixth grade through high school a taste of professional dancers' lives and evaluates their talents.
Virginia Price, business manager of the ballet school, said the school focuses on the most dedicated and promising students.
Kathryn Lindow practices a classic ballet move during practice
Photo by Jay Barrett
"They are auditioning against a standard," she said.
"(Admission) is competitive in the way that we have a certain number of spots. They have to have a certain talent. (Being accepted) is definitely an accomplishment."
Kathryn began studying dance one week before her fourth birthday with her mentor, Vergine Hedberg.
Although no one else in the family ever had been a serious dancer, Kathryn took to the lessons with enthusiasm and aptitude. She was, however, far from where she is now.
"She didn't become a dancer overnight," Hedberg said. "I had to work with her to bring her spirit up."
Kathryn sometimes turned away from ballet, but as she matured, her personality led her to the head of the class.
Kathryn Lindow practices with her classmates
Photo by Jay Barrett
"She is a hard worker. She has a good attitude," Hedberg said.
Hedberg has been a guiding light to the girl's budding dance career through her insights, consideration for families and high moral and professional standards, said Rita Lindow, Kathryn's mother.
"She got us interested and kept us on track. I have really grown to respect and listen to what she has to say."
Kathryn has studied a variety of dance types and enjoys such a wide spectrum of music she cannot pick a favorite.
"I know I love hip hop and jazz, but I'm probably better at ballet," she said. "I know I like classical. There are so many types of music it's kind of hard to choose."
Kathryn dances with the junior troupe of the Aurora Dancers from Vergine's Dance Studio in Soldotna. The troupe has traveled throughout the country and attended dance competitions.
"They have won awards everywhere they have gone," her mother said, "except Florida."
In the summer of 1998, the Aurora Dancers went to a competition in Florida that shook them up.
"It was an eye opener," Rita Lindow said. "Their technique was way ahead of ours. I think Florida was probably the turning point."
Hedberg and the families of her most serious students began arranging for guest instructors to provide advanced workshops. The results were great, Rita Lindow said.
Kathryn entered a preteen pageant and won second place in the talent division using her dance. She also won a scholarship to attend a dance competition in Vancouver, British Columbia. And she attended a workshop taught by dancer Michelangelo Canale, who told her about the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School where he had studied.
"I wanted a different challenge," Kathryn said.
Her mother said, "We decided if we could go to a summer school, that would be really good."
The Lindows decided to let Kathryn travel to Anchorage for additional classes with Canale, and they set their sights on Winnipeg.
Now Kathryn is dancing about 12 hours a week in Soldotna and Anchorage, plus trips to competitions. Her mother teaches Kathryn at home through the Galena school district's Interior Distance Education of Alaska, which gives the family the flexibility to accommodate her demanding dance schedule.
Kathryn Lindow puts on her point shoes during ballet practice.
Photo by Jay Barrett
Her next trip will be March 23-28, when she travels with the Aurora Dancers to a workshop and regional competition in San Jose, Calif.
In early December, Kathryn and her mother drove to Whitehorse in the Yukon for the ballet school audition.
Price, who was part of the audition team, was impressed by their dedication, as well as her talent.
"I do remember this girl," she said last week, speaking from her office in Winnipeg. "She drove such a long way to audition."
About 10 students auditioned for every one accepted. Kathryn was the only Alaskan to audition this year, Price said.
Hedberg said having Kathryn accepted to Winnipeg has been an inspiration to her other students and is a high point of her career teaching young dancers. The good news brought tears to her eyes.
"I am honored," she said.
The Winnipeg summer school program runs for four weeks in July. Students live in college-style dormitories, mingle with peers from around the world and dance most of the day.
About one-third of the students at the summer school are invited to enroll in the year-round ballet school. The school teaches half academics and half dance until students graduate at age 18 or 19. Many go on to professional dance companies, including the Royal Winnipeg Ballet.
The Lindows said they are intimidated by the thought of Kathryn attending a far-off boarding school at her age and remain undecided about what they would do if the school offers her admission to the long-term program.
"We are trying to take it one step at a time, and we're not sure what the next step is," her mother said.
Kathryn soon may have to decide, at her young age, whether she is going to commit herself to her art.
"I would like to be a professional dancer, but to use it as a teacher. I enjoy teaching people," she said.
Her mother said the family views Kathryn's talent as a gift from the Lord and they are praying for guidance. They know Winnipeg is likely to be a turning point.
"The whole dance world is kind of opening up for us," Rita Lindow said.
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