Dancing feet take girl to Britain

August 27, 1993|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Staff Writer

Mindy Study's "What I Did on My Summer Vacation" essay will probably be a bit more exciting than her classmates' this fall.

While the rest of East Middle's seventh-graders were sunning at Ocean City or trekking through the mountains, Mindy was dancing for crowds of people in the United Kingdom.

"I loved it," the 12-year-old said of her two-week trip to England, Scotland and Wales with the Hanover (Pa.) Children's Ballet and Theatre Company.

The troupe is the nonprofit performing arm of the Hanover School of Ballet.

From June 23 to July 7, the 18-member dance troupe performed 10 times for audiences as diverse as school groups and the international crowd of visitors to the Bournemouth Music Makers Festival in England.

The annual 15-day Bournemouth festival featured choral groups, bands and other performers from the United States, Sweden, Norway and Singapore this year.

"We had six or seven performances on our schedule," said the company's director, Deborah Blume-Byers.

"But people saw us, liked us, and we booked some performances while we were there."

The girls got to meet, talk and dance with British youngsters their own age.

"Some of the kids have dance as a mandatory class, like math," Mindy said. "I sure wish we had that here at home."

In between, they squeezed in visits to sites such as Madame Tussaud's famous wax museum, Windsor Castle and the Hard Rock Cafe.

"The first day, we started sightseeing and then we had two performances the next day," Mindy said. "Then, we started sightseeing again. It would take a normal person three months to see all we saw."

The girls' work began long before they left home. In addition to earning their way, the students practiced long hours in the studio to perfect their dances in the 45-minute show, "Love in Any Language."

For Mindy, her weekly practice schedule involves about four hours an evening in the fall and more intense practices in the summer, she said.

From 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., the girls learn the Soviet Vaganova style of ballet mixed with Ms. Blume-Byers' creative sense of movement.

"It's hard, but I like it," said Mindy, who earns A's and B's in school. "I just fit [my homework] in. My grandparents can't understand how I dance so much and still keep my grades up."

But Mindy, like her fellow students, knows her grades must stay high if she is to remain a dancer, Ms. Blume-Byers said.

"School comes first, and ballet theater comes second," she said.

"But most of their grades get stronger because of the discipline they get with ballet. They learn how to organize their day.

"If they love it enough, they'll find time to do their homework."

Love is almost not strong enough to describe Mindy's devotion to the craft she's followed since she watched a ballet on television at the age of 4.

"It was probably 'The Nutcracker' with Baryshnikov," said Mindy, who gladly endures the half-hour ride to class from Silver Run six days a week. "As I watched it on TV, I said to my mom that I wanted to do that.

"My major goal is to stay in dance as long as I can."

Ms. Blume-Byers said, "She started as an inexperienced little girl and has developed into a wonderful performer.

"She has a lot of experience under her belt."

Many of the dances in "Love around the World" are fast-paced, from the Highland kicks in "Scotland the Brave" to the clapping hands and hops in "Hooked on Hayden."

But Mindy said her favorite dances involve adages and developpees, the controlled movements that demand precision and discipline as the dancer slowly lifts and unfolds her leg at the knee.

She also said she prefers her pointe work to slipper.

"We get to do different things," Mindy said of dancing on her toes. "I like harder things, and it's more of a challenge."

One of Mindy's favorite memories from her trip is staying at a bed-and-breakfast on a Scottish farm. The owner, known as Harry to the girls, celebrated his birthday while the dance troupe stayed at his establishment.

"We gave him a birthday card and signed it, 'Your American friends, The Hanover Children's Ballet Theatre & Company," Mindy said.

"He started to cry and said he'd frame it with some American money. That felt really great."

This trip wasn't the first time Mindy, the daughter of Wendy and Richard Study, has demonstrated her talents abroad.

The young dancer, who successfully auditioned for Ms. Blume-Byers' dance company four years ago, also traveled to Romania, Bulgaria and the former Soviet Union with the group in 1990.

"I like meeting new people and learning about different cultures," she said.

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