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Local teen invited to train at Bolshoi Academy in Moscow

Posted: September 12, 2013 - 11:01pm  |  Updated: September 13, 2013 - 12:06am
Maire New leaps during practice for Juneau Dance Unlimited's Spring Performance in May 2012.  Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Maire New leaps during practice for Juneau Dance Unlimited's Spring Performance in May 2012.

Local dancer Máire New has been invited to train at one of the most prestigious ballet academies in the world — the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow — beginning in October. Máire, 16, spent six weeks at the academy this past summer, studying ballet and Russian language and culture through the Boshoi’s Summer Intensive, a highly competitive program that accepted only 15 students from around the country. The students were told at the beginning that some dancers might be invited back for the full year, and to expect an email in early fall letting them know. Máire was one of only three students to get that invitation earlier this month.

“I freaked out,” Máire said of her reaction to the email. ”I was so excited. It was really a dream come true.”

Máire said the Bolshoi summer intensive dancers were evaluated during a “watch day,” where observers sat in on classes, and through video footage filmed during other sessions. Though nerve-wracking, getting used to that kind of pressure is part of a dancer’s training, she said.

“There’s definitely pressure but it’s OK,” she said. “You just have to focus and do your best.”

The serious nature of the entire endeavour is something that Máire, a gracious young woman with an easy laugh, seems to take in stride. Everyone she came into contact with at the school was extremely serious about their art, she said; after all, it’s the Bolshoi.

“You have to really, really want it,” she said.

The other students she met during her first trip to Moscow became “like a family” to her, she said, and it’s likely that she will be working with some of the girls she knows when she gets back. She also has the advantage of having studied the Russian language for four hours every day for six weeks as part of her training at the summer intensive, which also included four hours of dance and many cultural excursions.

“It’s a beautiful language. It’s really hard but I love it,” she said.

Given that her dance classes were taught exclusively in that language, she had to learn it pretty quickly.

“By the end I was having dreams in Russian,” she said.

Máire didn’t take her first ballet class until she was 12, but she has been a Scottish Highland dancer since she was little, a cultural artform she shares with other family members. She gravitated toward ballet as a way to broaden her experience, said her mother, Diana Rossmiller.

“She decided she wanted to expand her repertoire, basically, and grow as a dancer, so she went over to Juneau Dance Unlimited and took a class, and just fell in love with it,” Rossmiller said. “At that point she was 12, very late for a ballet student to begin, but she was able to move through the classes quite quickly.”

Since then, Máire has received the remainder of her dance training at JDU — working with artistic director Philip Krauter and musical theater teacher Ricci Adan, among others — apart from summer intensives she has taken at the Joffrey Ballet School in New York, and the Bolshoi’s intensives in New York and in Moscow.

In addition to being extremely prestigious, the Bolshoi is also one of the oldest ballet companies in the world. Its roots can be traced back to 1776, when Empress Catherine II signed an order establishing the theater and performance troupe.

Máire’s summer intensive in Moscow was funded through a National Security Language Initiative for Youth scholarship, operated by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, in cooperation with American Councils for International Education. For the upcoming training, however, she must come up with the money for her tuition on her own — $26,000. She is currently thinking of ways to raise the money, and has started an Internet fundraising campaign. Find out more here: www.gofundme.com/45hcws.

Local audiences may have seen Máire in JDU’s annual productions of the “Nutcracker,” most recently as the Sugar Plum Fairy, or in Perseverance Theater’s productions of Oklahoma! last season.

Rossmiller said Máire and her two brothers, Padraig and Carraig, were all drawn to the arts with little encouragement on her part. Máire’s father, Michael New, a veterinarian who runs the Juneau Veterinary Hospital, is a musician who plays bagpipes and guitar, and he often played his instruments around the house as the kids were growing up, Rossmiller said. All three kids have inherited this love of music. Carraig is a dancer with JDU and plays the bagpipes, and Padraig, also a musician, is very interested in photography and film.

The Juneau Arts & Humanities Council’s latest round of fine arts scholarships, announced in May 2013, included awards for all three of the New children: Máire for dance, Carraig for bagpipes, and Padraig for photography. These awards are given to middle and high school students who show “exceptional talent and dedication to their art.” An audition is required. All three kids also received fine arts scholarships in 2012 and 2011.

Rossmiller, who homeschooled her children, said she and her husband provided opportunities for them to explore different art forms and let them take it from there.

“I feel like homeschooling enabled them to have the time to pursue the various things they were interested in,” she said.

While in Moscow, Máire will continue to be homeschooled by her parents through Skype and email for some of her classes, and will take others at the Bolshoi Academy. She is currently a junior in high school.

The News moved to Juneau in 1994 after fours years in Barrow, where they ran a veterinary practice. Rossmiller said coming to Juneau was a big change, but they soon fell in love with it. Their oldest, Padraig, was born the following year.

Rossmiller said thinking about having her daughter go so far away is a bittersweet joy. It’s likely she’ll be able to come home for the holidays, but not certain. Still, she is fully supportive of the experience.

“It’s her dream. She has to pursue this passion that she has,” she said. “And what an incredible opportunity to go and train at — truly — one of finest institutions in the world.”

Máire said she is a little nervous about her return to Moscow, but mostly just thrilled, and very grateful for the support she has received from her family, friends, teachers and other community members along the way.

“I’m just really, really thankful to have grown up in Juneau,” she said. “It’s such an amazing community.”

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