She Pointes, Scores

Dec. 11-17, 2003
She Pointes, Scores
By Kristen Fox / SUN contributing writers
photo submitted

Bishop Ludden student is comfortable on the playing field and in ballet shoes

Cazenovia –– Each year across the U.S., adults and children alike look forward to attending a performance of “The Nutcracker.” The story of a young girl’s dreamy visit to the Land of the Sugarplum Fairy has become for many a holiday tradition. They watch mesmerized as the dancers gracefully move about stage, the fluidity of their moves making it seem as if they were born to be ballerinas. But it is not as easy as it looks, said Ashton Thorpe, a sophomore at Bishop Ludden Jr./Sr. High School in Syracuse. And she knows from experience. For the past eight years, Ashton has performed in “The Nutcracker” with the Cazenovia School of Ballet. “The steps for many of the dances are complicated and you can get tired. You just keep smiling because you want to make it look beautiful,” said Ashton, 16.

The two shows, which were held on Nov. 29 and Nov. 30, each drew a crowd of over 300 people, Ashton said. It was the first time she performed in front of such a large audience. It was also the first time in Ashton’s 13 years as a dancer that she experienced stage fright, she said. “I was really nervous,” Ashton recalled. “My dance instructor just gave me a big hug and pushed me on stage.” Perhaps her trepidation was because of her role. Ashton had a solo as the shepardess in the Dance of the Reed Flute. The part is a challenging one, explained Joanne Rinaldo, Ashton’s dance teacher and director of the Cazenovia School of Ballet. “There is a lot that goes into this particular dance, it is very complicated and the steps are hard. In Ashton’s case, she is a high school student doing the same steps usually performed by adult dancers with professional ballet companies,” Rinaldo said. “But Ashton met the expectations of myself and the choreographer, as well as her own.”

“There is always something you need to work on to make your performance great,” Ashton explained. “It is just like participating in a sport, you have to be dedicated and willing to put in a lot of practice to be good.” Sitting in the front row were Ashton’s parents, Dr. David and Charlene Thorpe, and her three older brothers. The family are parishioners at St. James Church in Cazenovia. They are there to cheer her on and show their support for all her performances, said Ashton. “I love watching her dance,” said Charlene. “I know how hard Ashton has worked to be the ballerina that she is today.”

Ashton has been dancing since she was three. It was Charlene who suggested that she enroll in a class as a way to meet other children. While Ashton watched as many of her friends dropped out of dance class, she decided to stick with it, even through bruised toenails and scrapped knees. “Being a dancer is not easy, but there is just something about it that I really enjoy,” Ashton remarked. She is now in the advanced dance class at the Cazenovia School of Ballet, a level which she first reached as an eighth grader. According to Rinaldo, this achievement is unusual at such a young age. “It is not typical to put a young girl in an advanced class. But I noticed a lot of potential in Ashton, combined with the fact that she is a hard worker. When you put this kind of student in a challenging classroom, you have a recipe for success,” Rinaldo said.

Ashton believes that this kind of environment and working with older students have made her a better dancer. “I love to dance,” she said. “Dancing is my niche.” With practice five nights a week, her “niche” occupies most of her time. But she is a well-rounded young woman who is able to balance her rigorous practice schedule with the other normal activities teenage girls do. She enjoys school, particularly English class. Ashton is also on Bishop Ludden’s soccer and track teams. Her attitude about dance helps her to excel in these other facets of her life, Ashton explained.

“Ballet has taught me that in order to be good at anything, you really have to work hard at it,” Ashton said. “Nothing comes easy.” When she graduates from Bishop Ludden, Ashton hopes to continue dancing in some form. According to Rinaldo, Ashton’s potential as a ballerina will take her as far as she wants her ballet shoes to carry her. “Ashton is a very dedicated and hard worker,” Rinaldo said. “This is enough to take a dancer as far as she wants to go.”

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