UPDATE: If you didn’t get a chance to hear Claire interviewed on Studio Virginia, you can find it here. Just look for the show that was broadcast on 11/01/09. Click on that link, skip to right around the halfway point of the show.
We keep a photo of our daughter on our fridge. I can’t recall how old she was exactly, but I know she had just begun walking. In it, she’s just pulled herself up with a wooden barre and is studying her reflection in the mirror. She’s wearing a practical flowered dress with tights, and her tousled hair is curly — as it still is — and red — as it was then. It’s hard to imagine what she might be examining so intently, though I like to think that she’s gazing at her future — more mirrors, more wooden barres.
If that’s the case, then it might explain another picture that accompanied a story in our local paper just last weekend. She’s in front of another mirror, studying her reflection just as intently as before. Her hair is still curly, though it’s pulled up off of her neck, and her practical flowered dress has been replaced by a simple black leotard and pink tights. All in all, it’s a style that’s for more suited for what she has become — a dancer.
If you have been reading this blog or if you know my family at all, this will not be surprising to you. I’ve written about it here before, most recently when she was invited to take part in a three-week intensive session this summer with the Kirov Academy of Ballet in Washington, D.C. That experience did more than open my daughter’s eyes to her potential. It opened a door to her dreams.
You see, not long after she returned home — still humming from the vibe of being around so many who shared those dreams — Claire received an invitation to join the academy’s selective year-round training program. It’s an opportunity that only a handful of dancers get each year, and one that has brought our entire family a constantly shifting stream of pride, fear, joy, anxiety, and more.
The pride part is easy. How could a parent not be proud of a daughter such as this? One that has such an innate grace? One that lights up a stage, whether she’s singing or acting or dancing? Or, especially, one that– even at such a young age — has such a clear-eyed focus and drive to live her dream, to become what she has always imagined becoming? It’s an amazing thing to behold, and I couldn’t be prouder.
Yet we are also faced with the hard fact that our young daughter, so much a part of our lives every day, will no longer be living here, that part of the cost of this opportunity for her is, in no small way, a loss for us. To be honest, there are times when I find myself surprised by the notion that our house will be without her, and it brings me up short — like the shock of cold water — and I find myself wondering what on earth we could be thinking. She, too, I think, has this same reaction from time to time, as she imagines how much she will miss her friends, her dog, her mom and dad, and her best friend — her brother. This parting — coming in January — unsettles us all.
There’s another cost to this opportunity, one that can be more readily quantified and measured. As it is a full-time residential academic and ballet academy — replete with not just some of the world’s best ballet instructors, but also accompanists, staff counselors, a nutritionist, a registered nurse, a physical therapist, teachers, classrooms, and more — the annual tuition exceeds what we might have expected to spend to send her to any number of private colleges. Such costs are not easily managed, at least not by a family like ours.
Yet dreams lead us where they will, and sometimes, if we choose to follow them, they lead us where we might not otherwise choose to go, and require us to make choices we otherwise would not make. This is what it is like for our family now. And while we are committed to this path and overjoyed at the opportunity our daughter has been given, we are also more than a little anxious about where it will lead us.
We have been blessed by many who have wished us well, and who have been moved by Claire’s drive, by one dancer’s dream. If you are so moved, we would greatly appreciate knowing that. And if you know someone else who you think might appreciate this story — someone who loves dance, or who believes in the power and potential of young girls, or who simply loves the idea of dreams coming true, please take a moment to share this post with them.
We’ve set up a scholarship fund for those who may be inclined to help Claire reach her dreams, or just would like to send her a note of encouragement.
One Dancer’s Dream
P.O. Box 11141
Blacksburg, VA 24062
Thanks again, and stay tuned. There will be much, much more to this story.