The Faculty was so moved by your words of gratitude during our End-of-the-Year Concert that we decided to share some of what you told us in this news entry, along with the full text of Julie Gillian's inspiring college essay about ballet and the new horizons.
Thank you again for being such wonderful, dedicated students. You will be missed!
IBT Director, Jaelyn Fellona
College Essay by Julie Gillan
Balet. Danse Classique. Balletto. Bālěiwǔ. Baile. Ballet. "Ballet" in Russian, French, Italian, Chinese, Hindi, Dutch, and English has been my passion and life since the age of nine. It was when my mother dragged me from my family’s blue minivan where my hands were clenched tightly to the headrest of the front seat, and forced me to take my first ever ballet class, that I realized I was entering an unknown world. Dance was a foreign country to me, a new world, and I didn't like moving there — I didn't speak the language. Little did I know that when stepping with my pink leather ballet shoes into a tiny studio in Frazer, Pennsylvania, I was also entering a microcosmic world that would enable me to venture into the bigger world around me. That day, September 4, 2008, I took an intermediate ballet class for the first time. My story begins here.
Until September 4, 2008, I only knew of the tiny world around me in which everyone played sports and everyone spoke English. Eight years later, I start each afternoon by opening the door labeled "104" to International Ballet Theater Academy where I am typically greeted with a “Hello” from my first American ballet teacher as she keeps her two young sons occupied. As I proceed, I pass dance moms speaking to their daughters in Chinese while preparing their hair for class. I occasionally also hear the sweet voice of my dual-citizen friend, Sophie, speaking to her mother in Dutch on the phone. As I continue down the hallway, I make my way past the Indian dancers crowded in groups reviewing their cultural dances. I high-five my dance teacher’s three year old son not knowing if I will be greeted in English, Russian, or Italian, aware that he is concurrently learning all three of those languages. After making my way to the dressing room, I enter into the studio where I am greeted with a simple Zdravstvuyte or "Hello" from my Russian ballet master as I take my spot at the barre preparing myself to be ready for the first plié combination. The whole class will now be taught in a language alternating between French combinations and Russian corrections. I take a deep breath as I remind myself to leave my exuberant voice at my small all-girls school and place myself into my disciplined dance self. The music is queued and class begins. Two and half hours later, I gratefully curtsey saying Spasibo or "Thank You."
If my mother had not challenged my comfort zone and dragged me out of the car on that September afternoon, I would not be the person I am today. A room no more than 38' x 50' transformed me and expanded my world. The teachers taught me the dance movements, but my classmates and their diverse lives taught me the language of life, of the ballet. I was a foreigner who had to learn to fit in, to adapt, and to appreciate the cultural diversity all around me. It doesn't faze me anymore to hear about five languages a day; it has simply become second nature. What I have learned the most through my multi-cultural studio is that you do not need to speak the same language or even speak at all in order to dance. Dance is an unspoken movement within the body that communicates to ourselves and to others our emotions in a way every race, language, culture and age can understand. All humans are capable of movement independent of their cultural background. For this reason, each of us are all a part of one world and one unified "dance." Ballet lessons disciplined me, putting purpose to my movements, while the people I danced with moved my heart to a new purpose. There are no words for that — nyet — but I know my story doesn't end here.