When Rachel Mick steps on stage, a change comes over her. Off stage, she is a shy and reserved 14-year-old. But once she steps into place to dance, her spine straightens and she beams with confidence. Dancing is Mick's way of expressing herself. She communicates everything she needs the world to know through movement, and people are noticing.
On March 21, Mick auditioned for a summer intensive program hosted by the Colorado Ballet in Denver. Besides the 35 dancers in the room with Mick, auditions also were being held in New York, Florida, California and Texas, and video auditions were sent in from Japan and Russia.
Needless to say, Mick was nervous. The 35 dancers were given a combination to perform in front of a panel of seven judges. That was Sunday.
When Mick went to the mailbox the following Saturday, there was a letter from the Academy of the Colorado Ballet inviting her to participate in their monthlong intensive dance program from June 14 to July 9.
Mick's teacher, Stephanie Reese, was surprised at the speed of the response, but she wasn't surprised that Mick had been chosen.
Mick has studied under Reese for six years, first at Perry-Mansfield and later in dance lessons Mick took five and six days a week at Steamboat Ballet.
Mick has been studying ballet for eight years, but in the past couple of years, "it has just clicked into place," Mick said. "It was like I just started to understand, and I excelled in everything that I did."
Steamboat audiences may recognize Mick as the Arabian princess in "The Nutcracker" or for her part in "Spanish Nights."
"I think they chose Rachel for several reasons," Reese said. "For one thing, she's got the body for it. For dancers, they like the thin frame, the long legs, and she has the lines that are so important in ballet."
Reese has watched Mick change -- grow more graceful and mature -- in the past year, she said. "She doesn't look like a little kid on stage anymore."
Reese worked with Mick for months, preparing for the audition, but they didn't tell anyone. Fellow students didn't find out that Mick had auditioned until after she got the acceptance letter.
"She's scared to death," Reese said. "This is going to be hard for her, and I can't hold her hand for this one."
For Mick, being accepted into the Academy of the Colorado Ballet is the first step to a professional dance career. Dancers usually audition for a professional company when they are 18 or younger. Students enrolled in the Academy may have the opportunity to audition for a role in a Colorado Ballet performance.
"If she wants it, she could go all the way," Reese said. "I told her, 'I see it in you.'
"There's a lot of work to be done. You can't learn it all from one instructor, and it's time for her to expand her horizons.
"I'm so proud of her."
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