Young dancer goes great lengths to perfect her art

February 21, 1993|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Staff Writer

If being a dancer means giving up a social life, commuting more than three hours a day to and from Washington, and eating dinner about 8 p.m. over homework, then so be it for Lauren Jewell.

"I'd do it if I had an even busier schedule," said Lauren, 13, of Silver Run.

Dancing makes her feel special, capable. Normally she avoids attention, according to her mother, but Lauren loves to be on stage, dancing and becoming her part.

Most of her classmates at the Washington Ballet Company's school live in or around the District of Columbia, including her most recent classmate, Chelsea Clinton, daughter of President Clinton.

But Lauren leaves four days a week in the middle of her last class at East Middle School in Westminster, so she can get to her ballet lessons by 3:30 p.m. in Washington.

School doesn't suffer -- Lauren gets straight As and plans to go to college.

"I want to have a good education," she said. "If something would happen that I wouldn't be able to dance, I'd want to have something else. I think it's important to get some sort of college education."

Perhaps she'll major in dance medicine, she said.

But if she had to make choices between school and dance, dance would win hands down, she said.

Lauren's hard work paid off with a lead part in the Washington Ballet's performances of "The Nutcracker" in December. She danced the part of Clara, the girl who receives a magical nutcracker from her uncle one Christmas.

At home, surrounded by the woods in North Carroll, Lauren sits dressed like any teen after school in sweat pants and a hooded sweat shirt.

But it isn't difficult to see the dancer underneath. Her hair is pulled back in a ponytail, and her striking features seem made in the image of a classical ballerina.

Lauren Jewell looks born to dance, but it is hard work.

Living in Washington next fall could make things easier, she said.

Parents Donald and Mary Jewell and Lauren's grandparents alternate

driving duties to Washington.

"It's really tough driving back and forth," Lauren said. "It gets really boring because I can't do anything."

She found she couldn't use the commuting time to do homework, because looking down at her work gives her motion sickness.

"I can't do this another year," she said of her schedule and the late nights.

She might board with a Washington-area family or go to a residential school next fall, she said.

L Mrs. Jewell said she hasn't started to think about that yet.

Since their daughter started dance lessons in Westminster at age 3, the Jewells have realized supporting her desire to continue was the right thing to do, Mrs. Jewell said.

"She enjoys it so much," she said.

"They want me to do what I want to do," Lauren said.

They had been taking their daughter to the Peabody Institute in Baltimore for several years when a teacher there suggested that Lauren go to the Washington Ballet school when she turned 12.

But her teacher, Wendy Robinson, died two years ago. The Jewells decided to take Lauren to the Washington Ballet school for one class to see how she liked it.

"Of course, she loved it," Mrs. Jewell said.

"Maybe we aren't real practical people," she said. "Time-wise, we're lucky we're able to get her back and forth."

Mrs. Jewell works as a teacher aide in the science departments at North Carroll and Francis Scott Key high schools. Mr. Jewell is a graphic artist for the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

They also have a son, Edwin, 10.

East Middle teachers and the principal have been understanding about Lauren's schedule, the teen said.

"They arranged it so I could have reading as my last class, and I can do an independent study," Lauren said.

"She's got a good support system at the school and a good support system at the ballet school," Mrs. Jewell said.

Of course, a 13-year-old can fit only so much into her life. Lauren doesn't do much socially, she said, but she doesn't mind that sacrifice.

"I'm not much for social stuff," she said. "I've never been a social person."

She leans down to stroke Socks. Not Chelsea Clinton's cat, the more famous Socks, but Lauren's own pet greyhound, rescued from a Florida race course.

Socks is lean and graceful, an appropriate pet for a long-legged dancer.

The Socks connection might be a good icebreaker when Chelsea arrives at the school, a visitor suggests.

"I think it's neat," Lauren said, considering doing barre exercises alongside the country's first daughter.

The whole school -- especially the staff -- was excited about Chelsea's arrival, but Lauren seemed to take it in stride. "She's a kid," Lauren said with a shrug.

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