Dancing into Adulthood: Katie’s Journey with San Jose Dance Theatre

San Jose Dance Theatre’s impact on my daughter has been immeasurable. Her first introduction to SJDT was when she was a toddler, we walked past a mini-performance with young dancers they had at a city holiday event. Katie was enchanted. Skip forward a few years – I took her Girl Scout Troop to the SJDT Nutcracker, which included a tour. The next December we again went and watched the SJDT Nutcracker. She was again utterly enthralled watching girls who were just a little older than her dancing on this huge stage, but she wasn’t quite ready to do it herself. That summer Katie attended a one-day ballet class SJDT offered to Girl Scouts to teach them the “cookie dance”. She had an amazing time and a month later she was auditioning for the Nutcracker and dancing in rehearsals.

Katie had darn near no dance “training” but the people of SJDT never let her feel out of place and her confidence and love of ballet bloomed. She had a blast performing, but she wasn’t quite ready to commit to classes. The following year Katie again danced in the Nutcracker and at the end of the performances, said she was ready for ballet classes. Her performing on stage in Nutcracker gave her the drive to dedicate hours of free time to ballet. By the time she hit high school it was 20+ hours a week during rehearsals. This was a huge commitment. We do not live near the studio, so commute during commute hours was interesting, but Katie wanted the teachers she had met through Nutcracker and equally important she wanted to be free to perform with SJDT. This experience taught her the skill and value of time-management, and it fostered a sense of responsibility and discipline. Katie’s self-confidence, her belief in her own abilities, grew exponentially with each new skill learned and show performed. Importantly, the studio also taught her how to care for herself – ballet is physically, emotionally and mentally demanding. The knowledge she gained on self-care she still uses.

The experience granted by SJDT is unique. In her time at SJDT Katie went from zero dance experience to dancing in the corps and having a solo in the Nutcracker. The first few years her only dancing was for Nutcracker, no classes. SJDT holding open auditions and taking all levels of experience was what let her build confidence and decide for herself (and demand of her parents) that she wanted to learn ballet at a ballet studio. Katie only stopped dancing at SJDT because of health issues. In the years since, Katie has been continually thrown off balance by how her expectations and standards were set by her experiences at SJDT. Performing at the San Jose CPA set an entirely different level of expectation for dedication and professionalism. What makes SJDT special is those standards are matched by wanting their students to dance with joy. Dance should be fun.

Katie attends her college dance department productions and is repeatedly thrown by the reduction in expectations and professionalism, as well as the difference in the scale of the productions. I have repeatedly reminded her that her time with SJDT gave her experiences and opportunities that typically only professionals have and that her standards are not normal outside of a professional company. At SJDT All ages are expected to perform to a certain level of professionalism, no matter their skill level. They get perform in a large professional venue, with professional as well as volunteer support. The students get the amazing experience of performing with a live orchestra – something that is Not available to most ballet schools. I’m uncertain how many professional dance companies get this chance.

San Jose Dance Theatre is an incredible institution that provides the community professional quality performances showcasing young dancers from around the area. The studio provides high quality ballet education for all levels. My daughter would not be attending college out of state without the confidence and skills she learned from her time at SJDT. They hold many of my favorite memories of Katie and my family will be forever grateful I saw that advert in the Girl Scout activity program.


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