Keeping on her toes

Local dancer bound for Boston

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— Although she always considered herself too small to play sports, Andrea Bereznak is now a formidable presence on the dance floor.

"She is definitely looked up to by my dancers when she comes to town," said Stephanie Hunter, director of Steamboat Ballet. "They are kind of intimidated by her because she's just so good."

Bereznak, an 18-year-old Oak Creek resident who is training to become a professional dancer, is heading to Boston in August to attend The Boston Conservatory.

Hunter says Boston has one of the finest conservatories in the world.

The Boston Conservatory is a private college that offers undergraduate programs in dance and musical theater, music performance and education and composition.

Bereznak will be working toward a degree in fine arts with a concentration in dance.

She has received an $8,000-per year scholarship, along with a $7,000 private grant.

In June, Bereznak graduated from Idyllwild Arts Academy a boarding high school in Idyllwild, Calif., that offers a balance of art and academic programs. She spent two years at Soroco High School before transferring to Idyllwild.

Studying at Idyllwild was an opportunity to meet students of different nationalities, she said.

"I was able to be exposed to different cultures and different ideas," she said. "Everybody came to the school with a mutual respect for everyone else."

Every morning at Idyllwild, Bereznak said she would get up at the crack of dawn to eat breakfast with her schoolmates before heading to class.

Her morning schedule was filled with academic classes, while afternoons consisted of arts classes, including ballet and jazz.

Bereznak is now employed at Steamboat Art Company and is attending the Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp in Steamboat.

Dancing has always been her passion, though she had a brief love affair with soccer.

Bereznak played for a team in Steamboat during elementary school.

But she was always at a disadvantage, she said, because of her size.

"I played wherever they put me," Bereznak said. "But I was always passive. I was really small for my age and was always picked last for sports in my P.E. class.

"I started taking dance classes and found out that it was a way to feel athletically up to par with my peers."

When Bereznak was 11, she suffered an injury that briefly kept her out of dancing.

She injured her foot at a friend's birthday party.

One of her friends tried flipping over a barbell that was on top of a bench-press set. The set tipped over and crushed one of her left toes.

"All the weight was on one side and it just toppled over," Bereznak said.

"It's just real painful when I dance on (my toes). Three years later I had surgery and it didn't help."

Despite the injury, Hunter, who has trained Bereznak for four years, believes she has a bright future ahead of her.

"She has great technique, she's strong," Hunter said. "She's everything I wish I was. She's got the body, the feet, the grace, just everything that makes an incredible dancer."

Ashley Williams, a program director at Perry-Mansfield, also thinks Bereznak has unlimited potential.

"I've danced with her in classes and performances," Williams said.

"Her acceptance into Idyllwild and Boston is testimony to her excellence in dance."

Although her dreams keep her on the run, Bereznak says moving is a sacrifice she is willing to make.

"I'm willing to sacrifice being away in order to get the training I need to be a dancer," she said. "Everybody that has gotten there has been in the same boat."

To reach Eric Rineer call 871-4229

or e-mail erineer@steamboatpilot.com

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