Dancer, 12, following her dream Ballet: Jessica Weisner's dance teachers say her dream of becoming a professional dancer should be within the Glen Burnie girl's reach.

June 16, 1996|By Consella A. Lee | Consella A. Lee,SUN STAFF

When Jessica Weisner slips on her leotard, ballet slippers and begins to dance, she says she feels like a graceful swan in pursuit of her dream: a career as a ballerina. Her dance instructors say the Glen Burnie 12-year-old has the talent to realize that dream.

"She looks strong, beany, lean and long, and right now that's what you look for in dancers," said Clara Cravey, principal of the Houston Ballet Academy, where Jessica will spend her summer. "The physique is there, and she has the talent."

Jessica leaves today for her second year in the six-week summer program. She turned down offers from the Joffrey, Boston and Pacific Northwest ballet schools.

"She's a very nice little girl, very talented and we're happy to have her back," Cravey said. "She has a wonderful smile and lights up like a little Christmas tree when she starts to dance."

Last January, Jessica competed against 50 other girls at the Arlington (Va.) Dance Center and 2,000 others nationwide for one of 35 slots at the Houston Ballet Academy.

"I was a little nervous," she said, recalling the competition. "But after I started to dance, it went away."

Jessica studies two hours a day, five days a week at the dance center in Arlington.

Jessica took her first dance lesson when she was 6 to help her do better in a gymnastics class. Then ballet "wound up taking over," said her father, Curtis Weisner, 42.

"I like to dance because I love it really, the different moves, especially leaps. It sort of feels like you're flying," said the dark-haired girl with the warm smile.

She even wrote a poem titled "To Dance Again" for a poetry anthology at Old Mill Middle School North, where she just finished seventh grade.

"When I hear/The music/ Start/My body/Just takes over/I can taste/The sweat in my mouth/Running down my/Face and back," the poem begins.

Jessica said she is excited about going back to Houston and has no qualms about having turned down the other offers. Houston is where she wanted to be all along, she said.

"I'm just looking forward to seeing the teachers again," she said. "I like the teachers a lot. They're a lot of fun. They say jokes to relax us."

Last year, one teacher surveyed the class, all dressed in royal blue leotards, and said "we looked like Smurfs," said Jessica.

Jessica's parents are glad she is going back to Houston.

"We thought it would be good for her to go back to a place she knew and they all knew her," said her mother, Sharon Weisner, 35. "The biggest thing with her age now is to work on her strength so she doesn't get injured."

Jessica will stay in chaperoned housing in Houston. Although most of her time will be spent practicing ballet, there will be fun, too: Outings to malls, dinner out and trips to theme parks.

The program includes the balance Jessica's parents said they try to maintain in her life here so she remains a child and avoids burn-out.

"That's one of the biggest things we're worried about is that she'd burn out because it's so much," Sharon Weisner said.

Jessica's schedule during the school year is hectic enough.

She has less than an hour from the time she gets home from school to grab a snack, slip into leotards and jump into the car with her parents for the 84-mile round trip to Arlington. The mostly-A student does her homework in the car.

"She makes sure she gets her school stuff done," her mother said. "She's very responsible for a 12-year-old. She's a very determined little girl."

Jessica may arch her back well and glide fully up on her toes easily to dance, but she remains well-grounded despite her accomplishments, said Paul Wegner, Jessica's teacher at Arlington.

"When she does well, she doesn't get full of herself. She stays really humble and just keeps working hard," he said.

When she isn't dancing, Jessica does "just regular kid stuff," her father said. She reads "Goosebumps," the popular children's horror book series by R. L. Stine, goes in-line skating or bicycling, takes in movies or sleeps over at a friend's house.

Jessica's sister, Kelly, 11, also takes dancing lessons at Arlington, but her favorites are tap and jazz.

There are days, the Weisners said, when they don't want to go to Arlington. But they make the trip because Jessica is "so determined," her mother said.

Jessica also wants to go to Virginia to high school. Friends she met in Houston last year recommended the Virginia School of Arts in Lynchburg because of its deance program, she said.

And some day, she dreams, she will "dance for the Houston Ballet or any famous ballet company."

Pub Date: 6/16/96

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