By THERESA WINSLOW
The Capital of Annapolis
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Ellie Dotson’s right foot is never too far from her thoughts.
Fifteen months of pain, surgery and rehabilitation can do that — especially when your ballet career is hanging in the balance.
But the 16-year-old Tracys Landing resident is back to training at almost full speed — en pointe and on track to be a professional dancer.
“I wasn’t going to let this stop me,” Ellie said. “I have to put all that behind me and keep doing what I love.”
She leaves Southern High School early to take classes at the Maryland Youth Ballet in Silver Spring. She’s usually there about four hours a day.
“She’s so expressive in her movements,” said Hariett Moncure Fellows, a member of the senior faculty at the youth ballet. “She’s got the soul of a dancer.”
When that soul couldn’t express itself because of the injury, things ran to a pretty dark place. Ellie’s been enthralled with ballet since she was 3 and has been taking classes for almost as long.
“I was depressed,” she said. “I went through this rough stage of not being able to dance, and worrying about not being able to dance. I was worried I’d have to start a different life.”
She took up nail art to distract herself from thinking about ballet while she rehabbed and recovered. “I painted my nails every hour,” she said.
Ellie has a two-inch scar on the side of her big toe from surgery. Her sesamoid bone split in two after she performed a hip-hop routine with Southern High’s dance team.
She was already hurting at the time, but decided to take part so she wouldn’t disappoint anyone and so her classmates could see her on stage.
“She’s an awesome student, a fantastic dancer and a total sweetheart,” said Jenny Sitter, who has Ellie in her French class. “She definitely lights up the room when she comes in.”
Dianna Cuatto, artistic director of the Ballet Theatre of Maryland, had similar praise. Ellie used to take classes with the Annapolis company before switching to the youth ballet.
“She’s a very gifted dancer,” Cuatto said. “She definitely has a lot of great potential, even with the setback of her injury.”
Every dancer has injuries, she said, and one of lessons they have to learn is to tough it out. Some fall by the wayside, but most persevere, like Ellie, Cuatto said.
“The persistence is what sets apart strong artists and strong athletes.”
Ellie appreciates dance more than ever now.
“I just love ballet,” she said. “It’s like an escape from the rest of the world.”
All of her energy goes into training — and anything left over goes into raising money. She was selected for Burklyn Ballet Theatre’s summer program, and chosen to travel with the Vermont troupe to Scotland to perform “Cinderella” at an Edinburgh arts festival.
The only catch is the cost. She needs to raise about $8,550 for the program and the trip.
After fundraising and work behind the counter at a Deale pizza restaurant, she’s more than halfway there. But she has to come up with the rest by the end of the month. Two more fundraisers are planned.
“I think I can do it, (but) it’s going to be a stretch,” she said. “I’m keeping my fingers crossed.”
If worse comes to worse, she’ll only do four weeks of summer classes instead of six, and put the rest of the money toward the Scotland trip.
Beyond the chance to travel, performing in Edinburgh provides the chance to dance to a ballet choreographed by one of her mentors, Rob Royce.
Ellie first met Royce when he was with the Ballet Theatre of Maryland. He’s now based in W. Va. and working at a variety of locations.
He’ll also be teaching some of the classes Ellie will hopefully be taking this summer.
“No question, she has what it takes,” Royce said. “She has the dance, she has the determination, and more than anything she has the respect for the art and herself.”
Information from: The Capital of Annapolis, Md., http://capitalgazette.com
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)