In the spring of 2016, I made my way out to England to audition for the Graduate Program at Northern Ballet in Leeds England, English National Ballet School, and Birmingham Royal Ballet. I was offered a place at Birmingham Royal Ballet's school and a place at the Graduate Program with Northern Ballet for the following year. September came and I made the decision to accept the offer with Northern ballet. My parents helped me prepare for my move over to England! This meant that I had to get a visa that enabled me to dance with Northern ballet for a year, starting August 2016.
Northern ballet requested that I apply for a student visa so this is what I did. My student visa was denied the first time so we sent in another visa application for a visitor's visa which allows a person to stay 6 months in the country. Again, my visa was denied for reasons I still do not know!
My family really helped me research how I could dance in England without a visa. I could not have done it without my family; I’m so blessed to have them! We spent hundreds of dollars for the costs of my visa applications. Legally an American citizen can stay in the UK for 30 days with just a U.S. passport. I was in close communication with Northern ballet and they said that I should just fly over and start dancing with the program for 30 days until they could get a visa for me to dance the rest of year.
We felt that this was the best option. So I packed my bags with leotards, tights, and my pointe shoes. I remember hugging my parents and saying goodbye to my family and my Ballet Society family in Colorado; I was excited to dance where I have dreamed to dance ever since I started dancing. For me, I was also excited to travel. This was a new adventure from God and I felt prepared, with my training at Ballet Society, to dance in a new environment!
I flew from Denver to Manchester airport in October 2016. I arrived in customs at the UK border. I told the immigration officer my plan. The immigration officer did not believe my story. The fate of my dancing career was in his hands and there was nothing I could do about it. He told me that I had to fly back to CO. UK Immigration arranged for me to fly back and I was held in a detention center until my flight. I remained in the detention center for 3 days and was not allowed any contact with my family during this time. I admit, this was scary! I was then released and flew back to CO. My family and I kept fighting to find a way to keep me over there legally.
Second-time's a charm! A month later, I said goodbye to my parents again at the airport and I successfully made it through the UK border. I had my first day dancing at Northern and classes went really well through the morning. Then, I met the director of the program and ballet mistress of Northern Ballet. I enjoyed her corrections in class and thought they were very helpful, though it almost seemed like she was not even aware of me in class. There were many talented students in my class, so I figured that I needed to work harder for her to look at me. I stood right in the front of the room and she would not even glance at me.
I was not being treated like the other students no matter how hard I worked or how much I tried to please the director. This made me feel like it was my fault just because I was American and could not get a visa to stay and dance. The ballet world is not easy and you cannot please everyone you meet. I wanted to work hard and keep dancing at Northern Ballet because I knew it would benefit my career to be able to work so close with a company! I tried to turn every negative into a positive. Every day I walked into class, I kept a smile on my face and thought happy thoughts—this most always puts a smile on my face!! :) I kept in mind that God brought me here to dance for a reason and I was not going to let someone take that from me!
It was amazing to have a home away from home with the two families I stayed with during my time there. I was able to see so much and learn so much about the UK through them! This was one of the highlights of my time over there! I had no idea when I left for the UK what these families would be like until I actually arrived. I am very thankful to them as they were so open and happy to share their home and traditions with me while I was away from my family during Thanksgiving and Christmas! After all, this was my first holiday away from my family and Christmas means a lot to me!
It was nearly the end of December and Northern Ballet told me that, "they no longer could have me dance with the program." Again, I had to fly back to CO since Northern Ballet, in a sense, had to "let me go". As soon as I arrived back from England I scouted the US for more auditions. This brings me to the present, March 2017. I just returned from Florida and New York. I am currently in the process of opening new doors to my career.
I auditioned for Eugene Ballet, Orlando Ballet, Washington Ballet, Colorado Ballet, SAB (School of American Ballet), Sarasota Ballet, and the Disney College Program. Every time something prevents me from dancing, I fall more in love with the days I GET to dance and to me this is a beautiful thing! I had quite the adventure and I am so grateful for it, even for the crazy things! To dance in England is a dream but the real goal is to just dance and to dance where I am given opportunities and to dance as much as possible! I may not be able to dance in England right now, but I will take what I am given in this moment and enjoy the dance along the way!
We may not be able to change our circumstances but we can certainly change our perspective. This experience has made me a better worker, thinker, and dancer. God blessed me with dance and he will put me in my happiest place! Experience is an important piece to a dancer’s journey--it is just as important as the actual dancing. Ballet is my sunshine and as long as I am dancing it does not matter where I am dancing, it just matters that I AM dancing!
(First photo is by Katherine Marie Photography. Second photo is by Shannon Reed.)