Young dancer takes turn with Joffrey Ballet Burleigh Manor student shows flair in run of 'Nutcracker' in D.C.

December 24, 1997|By Dawn Fallik | Dawn Fallik,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Megan Levin may have flat feet, but she sure keeps on her toes.

The 13-year-old Ellicott City native just spent a week performing with the renowned Joffrey Ballet of Chicago in Washington. She's looking forward to the day when touring with such a company might become a way of life.

But turning professional probably won't be a big surprise for this dark-haired slip of a girl. She's been dancing since she was 3 years old.

"I decided to turn serious when I was about 8," says Megan with aplomb, as her parents, Kim and Mark Levin, look on proudly. "It was just something fun that I enjoyed doing and I started taking more classes a week."

But something stood between Megan and her dreams -- her feet. Although other forms of dance, such as jazz and tap, do not place such emphasis on the shape of the foot, ballerinas need to have very strong, curved arches to present a good line while en pointe, standing on their toes in stiff-soled shoes.

At age 10, Megan was told by a teacher that her flat feet meant that her dreams of dancing professionally would never become reality.

"At first I didn't know any better, so I said, 'Well, your teacher says you can't do this because of your feet, so you can't do this," says Megan's mother, Kim. "But then we started learning more about things she could do."

After trying several studios, Megan landed at Dance Foundations in Ellicott City with teacher Lori Pryor. Every night for more than a year, she and her mother would do exercises on the floor to help stretch out her feet and strengthen the arch muscles. At the same time, she was learning to correct certain postures and techniques.

Finally, her future began to fall into place, along with her not-so-flat feet.

Last year she won a scholarship to attend the Joffrey Ballet School's summer trainee program in New York. But because of her age, her parents encouraged her to stay at home instead.

"Basically, I wasn't ready for her to go to New York yet," her mother says with a laugh.

Instead, Megan went to the Maryland Youth Ballet Camp, where she met Rhodie Jorgenson, the children's ballet mistress for the Joffrey. Jorgenson encouraged Megan to audition for the

Christmas production of "The Nutcracker" in Washington.

So, in early October, Megan found herself in a crowded studio at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

"There were about 90 girls auditioning. They were eliminating people, and then they called me and some other girls off to the side," she says.

"I thought I had been eliminated, and I started getting upset. But then I saw that they were adding other girls to our group, and it turned out that we were the ones being selected," says Megan.

She and 11 others were chosen to be Polichinelles, dancers who hide under Mother Ginger's skirts in the middle of Act II. Megan also performs as one of the mice in the first act.

At first, it was a bit overwhelming, but Megan says, "I've learned how to be calm no matter what happens."

At the performance Friday night, Megan danced with flair, obviously enjoying her turn in the spotlight.

Now that the curtains have closed on the Joffrey's run at the Kennedy Center, she plans to return to her daily classes at Burleigh Manor Middle School while dancing six days a week at Dance Foundations. It looks like a lot of work, but not to Megan.

"It's my time to relax, to do what I like to do best," she says.

The teen, who has two nondancing brothers -- Jason, 15 and Alex, 7 -- says she enjoys hanging out with her friends at school and that her classmates respect her for what she does.

"Sometimes they ask me to dance for them," she says.

And, of course, she does.

Pub Date: 12/24/97

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