Dancing Her Way To New York City

June 09, 1991|By Marc LeGoff | Marc LeGoff,Staff writer

Call Hammond High freshman Leigh Heffer an overachiever, but she's actually looking forward to summer school.

However, the 15-year-oldfrom Columbia, who carries a 4.0 grade-point average, won't be studying Earth Science or Algebra II. She will travel to New York City to attend the School of American Ballet.

"Right now, ballet takes up most of my extra time," said Heffer, who will portray Princess Florine today in the Ellicott City Ballet Guild's production of "The Sleeping Beauty."

"Last Saturday, I was at dress rehearsal for nine hours until 10 p.m.," she said. "It's hard work, but everything is coming together great."

Heffer says she devotes about 30 hours a week to ballet during the regular school year.

"I even have to get out of school a little early to make practice on time," she said.

Rehearsals for today's show began in March.Curtain times are 1:30 and 3:30 p.m. at Howard Community College's Smith Theatre.

In February, the teen-ager tested for the week-long summer program run by the School of American Ballet at an audition inNorthern Virginia and was awarded a scholarship. The school is associated with the New York City Ballet.

Fortunately for Heffer, the school recently added campus dormitories. "I think her parents were extremely wary about letting Leigh live off-campus, walking around alone in the city," said Caryl Maxwell, director of the Ellicott City Ballet Guild.

Maxwell offers nothing but praise for Heffer, describing her as "ambitious, talented and very sweet." In addition to her ballet

and jazz classes, Heffer works at Maxwell's School of Classical Ballet as a demonstrator, earning credit toward the cost of lessons.

"Leigh's very helpful in encouraging the younger students. They look up to her," said Maxwell.

Sometimes the night doesn't always end when the lessons are over. Heffer also works part time cleaning the classrooms and halls.

Heffer said that if she doesn't succeed as a professional ballerina, she'd like to be a dance teacher or physical therapist.

For now, though, she's concentrating on her role inthe Sleeping Beauty fairy tale. In one scene, a bluebird helps Princess Florine escape from her perilous entrapment at the top of a castle by teaching her how to fly.

Considering her track record, this teen-age overachiever will not only learn to fly, she'll soar.

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