Claire Churchill, 17 of Concord, who dreams of dancing professionally has been accepted into the prestigious American Ballet Theatre’s (ABT) summer program in New York.  Claire was thrilled.  She was at school when she received word of her acceptance.

“I just remember seeing the email and being terrified to open it in case it was a rejection,” Claire said. “When the teacher’s back was turned, I opened the email and then tried not to scream.”

New York City and ABT are a long way from Claire’s first ballet class in a rented theatre in Pleasant Hill, where she began her dancing career at age six twirling scarves and skipping around the room.  Over the years, her dreams and skills have grown, and so have her professional needs. Claire is currently training with Contra Costa Ballet in Walnut Creek. She credits their precise instruction with giving her the skills and training she has needed to progress to this stage. Her training also included attending last summer’s program at the Joffrey Academy in Chicago, where she had the opportunity to improve her technique while exploring contemporary ballet and choreography.

ABT is one of the premier ballet companies in the world, and has been home to famous dancers like Mikhail Baryshnikov, Gelsey Kirkland, and more recently, Misty Copeland. Claire is looking forward to dancing in the same studios as her dance heroes.

“I have always dreamed of dancing professionally.  This is one step closer to my dream becoming reality,” she explained.

Claire’s acceptance into ABT is special not just because of the prestige of the program, but also because just one week before the audition, she was in the hospital not sure if she was going to live due to complications from the flu.    Miraculously, she was able to find the strength to audition for ABT.

“It was one of the most painful moments of my life, but I dug deep and made it through the audition. I don’t know how I did it, but I did.”

Like most dreams, this one comes with a price.  Dancing with ABT is a very expensive endeavor with tuition, flights and housing costs totaling more than $6,000. In addition to dancing more than 20 hours a week and waking at 5:30 each morning to commute to high school, Claire is working to fund her dream by babysitting and house cleaning. To help offset costs, she also has set up a “Go Fund Me.” Contributions of any amount are gratefully welcomed as she prepares for this next stage in her dance career.

Congratulations Claire, I am sure within our generous communities, you will get all the support you need.