An inspiring summer break for aspiring ballerina

For Olivia Cole, 13, summer camp was an intense month-long program with one of San Francisco’s finest ballet companies.


Laura Lee Cole | Special to The Sun

Some kids choose to experience time away from home on a camping trip or other summer diversions, but not Olivia Cole, age 13, of Sonoma. No, her big leap was spent in San Francisco at Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet’s pre-professional ballet intensive, a month-long dance program for young students with big dreams.
The journey started last winter, a period when hopeful dancers spend their spare time auditioning for some of the top dance schools in the country and around the world. Although a grueling and yet exciting process, auditioning in-person for schools like Ballet West, American Ballet Theatre, and Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet is a rite-of-passage for the serious and dedicated student.

In January, Cole, who trains locally at Sonoma Ballet Conservatory, carpooled at the last minute to San Francisco for her very first audition experience. “I wanted to know what it’s like to audition for an amazing company like LINES Ballet,” Cole said.

After two hours spent packed inside a studio with dancers several years older than herself, a breathless yet smiling Cole emerged, declaring she left everything she had on the dance floor. No matter the outcome, she was pleased to have tried her best and mused about auditions she would attend next winter. However, several days later a surprised Cole received an acceptance notice by email, then notice of a scholarship to help pay the costs of such a high-caliber summer dance intensive.
“Since I had only been training at Sonoma Ballet for one year, I never expected an acceptance, much less scholarship money,” Cole exclaimed. “I only went for the experience!”

This summer, the experience continued with the workshop in San Francisco. Not only did Cole live dorm-style in the city’s center with 119 other young dancers from around the United States and world, she spent six days each week and up to nine hours each day with her slippered feet upon the studio floors of a highly-esteemed professional ballet school, under the direction of one of the most innovative choreographers and some of the most respected technique instructors in the field.

Cole spent hours each week in ballet, pointe, pas de deux, which is partnering technique, contemporary, modern, hip hop, and jazz fusion, plus classes for muscle strengthening and injury prevention.

“In my training in Sonoma, I’ve really concentrated on ballet,” Cole explained, “so I thoroughly enjoyed the classes that took me out of my comfort zone and forced me to move and express myself in different ways.”

Returning home to participate in Sonoma Ballet Conservatory’s own Summer Dance Program, Cole knows that her summer experience with the Alonzo King company not only improved her technique and artistic self-expression, but it helped her feel even more confident and determined that a professional dance career is the right path for her.

“After another year with Ms. Patty (O’Reilly, the Artistic Director of Sonoma Ballet Conservatory), who knows where I could end up next summer?” declared Cole. “This winter, I’m going to shoot for the stars!”

This Saturday, August 6, at 11 a.m., at The Sebastiani Theatre, Cole will be among the performers in the Sonoma Ballet Conservatory’s 7th Annual Summer Dance Workshop Performance. Tickets are $10-$15.


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