[Oct. 2016 Sports] Rhoads paves a road for dancing

By Lauren Stack ’17

 

While most high school seniors’ work day ends at 2:15, Elizabeth Rhoads’ ’17 day just begins as she laces up her ballet shoes and makes the four hour, round-trip commute to New York City.

Rhoads began dancing in third grade at the Westport Academy of Dance but currently dances at Ballet Academy East on 92nd and 3rd avenue in New York City.

“I loved the chaos of hundreds of little dancers running from class to class, parents fixing their kids’ hair and music echoing out from the studios,”  Rhoads said.

After auditioning and getting accepted into the program, Rhoads was thrown into the draining schedule of commuting six days a week and dancing a minimum of 22 hours per week, and that was only when she was not practicing for an upcoming show.

Although dancing has been a part of Rhoads’ life for a long time, it certainly hasn’t been a walk in the park. It has taken perseverance and motivation for Rhoads to keep up with the demanding commitment that dance requires.

“The biggest obstacle I’ve had to overcome is trying to maintain the dichotomy between my school and dance lives,” Rhoads said.  “I somehow have managed to fit in tutoring for the ACT, hanging out with my friends and getting my license. But in the end, it’s my decision to go there, and it’s worth all of the stress and long nights.”

Rhoads described her dance school as “any [dance] school here but on steroids.” The academy expects a lot from its dancers and holds them to a very high standard. The school requires perfect attendance, even if a dancer is sick.  Any dancer who misses a rehearsal will face the threat of being cut from a show. Another key aspect to maintaining the academy’s stellar reputation is having all dancers abide by the dress code policy, which includes asking permission before dying hair.

Despite all the strict expectations, Rhoads finds a lot of rewards. “Every time I’m exhausted and I don’t feel like commuting, I think of my friends at ballet who are waiting for me and who get me through every class,” Rhoads said. “I have made friendships with the girls, the guys, the younger students, the pianists, my teachers, the custodian and the secretaries at the front desk. Being there makes me feel important,” Rhoads said.

This year, Rhoads intends to audition for ballet companies but plans to pursue a career in something other than ballet in college.

“I plan to dance through college, and it will always remain a part of my identity,” Rhoads said, “but I can’t see myself giving up college for a lifelong career in it.”

Even though Rhoads does not consider ballet to be her life calling, it is still a passion.  For Rhoads, ballet elevates life through grace and beauty. “[Ballet is] an art,” Rhoads said.  “You don’t barrel your way through a performance; you take every moment to present yourself as gracefully and musically as possible.”