Out of a fairytale

Kimberly Mei, Staff Writer

Some may think that fairytale costumes are only for Halloween. However, senior Amelia Leidy has literally become Cinderella seven times in the month of January.

It wasn’t a magical ball gown or delicate glass slippers that this Cinderella whirled across the ballroom in. It was a fluffy, snowy tutu and a sturdy pair of satin pointe shoes. Though the glass slippers had to lead the prince back to Cinderella, the pointe shoes led Leidy to ballet.

“The sparkly costumes and satin pointe shoes caught my eye when I was younger,” Leidy said. “My mom took classes, and when I was 2 years old, I would watch and try to imitate all the steps. I spent a lot of time up at the studio watching her. My mom put me into my first class when I was 2, and I fell in love.”

Leidy has been dancing with Plano Metropolitan Ballet (PMB) for nine years. All dancers must originally audition to join either the 10 to 18 age group, or the 8 to 12 age group that is the Junior Company. By putting on annual performances of fairy tales, and founding and sponsoring the annual Plano Dance Festival, PMB gives dedicated dancers the opportunities to perform, as well as local audiences the chance to enjoy the dances. The dancers train together at Gotta Dance Studio, where dance instructor Natalie Anton first met Leidy five years ago.

“We were working on Sleeping Beauty at the time,” Anton said. “You can always tell the students that want to be there, to improve, and truly love the art. Amelia is one of those students. Amelia has grown tremendously since I first met her. As a teacher, you learn to love the students who love what they’re learning. I love that she shares the passion for ballet with me. It makes it easier to teach concepts, to explain choreography, and makes it fun for everyone involved. Teaching Amelia is such a joy. She has gotten quite good at her fouettes, and has worked hard to create beautiful lines.”

Leidy has brought a variety of characters to life on stage, from a squirrel in Snow White her first year to now having starred as Cinderella in her latest show. Along the way, she’s been Glenda the Good Witch in the Wizard of Oz, and the evil queen in Snow White.

“My favorite memory of Amelia has to be last year’s production of Snow White with Plano Metropolitan Ballet,” Anton said. “Amelia was the wicked queen. I had the pleasure of choreographing all of her numbers in that show, and in the process got to know her better. I loved having the time with her to really work on her character, as well as her technique.”

Leidy said that it takes a lot of concentration and work to learn some choreography, and it has taught her to be more patient. She takes classes at Gotta Dance four days out of the week for two and a half hours after school, and practices Saturday mornings with the Plano Metropolitan Ballet.

“The most difficult thing about being a ballerina is that most of my time is dedicated to dance,” Leidy said. “It’s hard to come home from dance exhausted, and then have to focus on homework. However, after all the tiring rehearsals, performing on stage is definitely the most rewarding. I’m always nervous right before I go on stage, but that’s natural. Almost all dancers will say they felt the same. Once I’m on stage, it all comes naturally for me. I’m in my element.”

For Leidy, ballet runs in the family. Her mother teaches ballet at Gotta Dance regularly, and on Fridays they teach a special needs dance class, PMB Pals, together. Among the students is her sister Hannah.

“The owner of the studio suggested the idea, and my mom and I decided that it was a great idea,” Leidy said. “I love seeing all the kids being able to participate in an activity that they have all wanted to do but have never gotten the opportunity to. My sister used to come up and watch my class and would always try to run in and dance with me, but because she is handicapped, she had never gotten the opportunity to participate in a dance class before now. People need to understand that special needs people are regular people just like anyone of us. They still have feelings and enjoy doing activities that everyone does. Often when I tell people I have a mentally handicapped sister, they say ‘Oh I’m so sorry’, but it shouldn’t be like that. My sister Hannah has a wonderful life and is always happy. People shouldn’t feel sorry for her because she’s different.”

Dancing has been a way for Leidy not only to spend time with her family but also with some of her closest friends.

“I have learned how much she cares for her family,” Anton said. “I see her being a good friend to the other dancers, even when there’s the inevitable drama.”

Cera Taylor, a senior at McKinney High School, has known Leidy since Leidy’s mother was her first dance teacher at age 4.

“[Dancing alongside Amelia] is so fun because I’ve known her for so long, and we can be comfortable around each other,” Taylor said. “When I’m on stage it feels like I’m just dancing with a really close friend and no one’s watching.”

Throughout the years, Leidy has accumulated many memorable moments on stage and behind the curtain.

“A few years ago when I was younger, we were performing Cinderella,” Leidy said. “One of the stepsisters put a raisin on her tooth to try and make us laugh on stage. Another time when we were performing Sleeping Beauty, people filled Sleeping Beauty’s basket with feminine products.”

The final show of PMB’s Cinderella production for 2012 was on Friday, Jan. 20 at the Courtyard Theater, in which Leidy triumphantly uncovered her true identity as a princess. In real life, there was no dramatic falling-off of rags. However, Leidy has also evolved, from a tiny girl enchanted by her mother dancing to taking the center stage herself.

“If all students were as dedicated and committed as Amelia,” Anton said, “the world would be full of lovely ballerinas.”

Leidy’s next performance will be on Saturday, March 31, as part of the Plano Dance Festival at Courtyard Theater. Several dance companies will feature not only ballet, but also modern dance and tap dancing. Tickets are on sale at www.planometball.org.