Chandler native leaps into NYC Ballet role SanTan Sun News

Chandler native leaps into NYC Ballet role

Chandler native leaps into NYC Ballet role
Arts
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By COLLEEN SPARKS

Contributor

A Chandler native who starting dancing at age 2 is “en pointe” academically and on stage after polishing her performance skills in The School of American Ballet in New York City and getting ready to balance new positions as an apprentice in the New York City Ballet and a student at Columbia University.

Malorie Lundgren, 17, is eager to leap into more artistic and academic pursuits after graduating last month from Arizona Connections Academy, an online school based in the East Valley.

The academy is a tuition-free, K-12 grade online public school available to students around Arizona. Students engage in structured lessons and self-paced learning in the online school so they can complete their academics on their own schedule while pursuing other passions.

George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein founded The School of American Ballet in 1934 in their quest to start an American ballet company. New York City Ballet was born 14 years after the school started.

The school has been the ballet company’s official academy since that time, training dancers for other companies around the world as well.

Located in the heart of the city’s classical performing arts area, the school provides modern studios, dressing rooms, lounges and physical therapy and Pilates centers, as well as living quarters in several floors of the attached Meredith Willson Residence Hall.

Malorie first began dancing at Ballet Etudes in Gilbert and enjoyed performing in “The Nutcracker” and a spring ballet at Chandler Center for the Arts.

Her drive and love of dance prompted her to move to New York City at 14, when she began training in The School of American Ballet. Malorie had began taking classes at Arizona Connections Academy at age 13 while still living in Chandler.

“My mom just put me in (dance) and since then I would dance around everywhere,” she said. “I loved doing it. I did want to have a flexible schedule (so) that I could dance more, take more ballet classes and focus on ballet.”

Malorie enjoys living in the dorms in New York City, dancing often and seeing New York City Ballet perform frequently.

Arizona Connections Academy made it easy to take the jump from being a Chandler resident studying at a local dance studio to an aspiring professional ballerina in New York.

“They were really flexible,” Malorie said. “I didn’t have to be at school. I had every one of my teachers’ numbers that I could call whenever I had questions. The communication was really easy.”

She could also talk to her teachers during live chats on the computer.

She went to Chandler Traditional Academy — Gilbert Campus for kindergarten through sixth grades and then went to American Leadership Academy in Queen Creek for a year before starting at Arizona Connections Academy in eighth grade.

Alexandra “Alex” Houseman, a high school science teacher at Arizona Connections Academy, said Malorie was sweet, polite and did not seem stressed juggling academic coursework and an active dance calendar.

She taught Malorie science and was also her homeroom teacher. Houseman said the school’s homeroom teachers check in with students on the phone every three weeks and answer students’ questions about classes, deadlines and anything else, making sure they “stay on track with lessons.”

“Every time I would check in with her for homeroom I was just amazed by how good her grades were,” she said. “She was always on track with her lessons. She never seemed too stressed out. She seemed to handle the load of dancing full-time and going to school full-time very well. She always seemed happy and very pleasant.”

Students can email or call their teachers at Arizona Connections Academy for help anytime from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

The youths can participate in live lessons where they see their teachers’ faces online instructing them if they like. They can also complete lessons on their own without doing live lessons if they choose.

The children and teens can use their microphones to talk to the teachers during the live lessons. Students must take standardized tests in person in Arizona when required since Arizona Connections Academy is a public charter school.

“Malorie was pretty independent, able to get through pretty much everything on her own,” Houseman said. “She was a great student.”

She said many Arizona Connections Academy students are dancers, as well as ice skaters, swimmers and gymnasts. Some are actors who travel frequently to Los Angeles.

The students are required to do at least five hours of schoolwork a day and it’s all completed on computers. Arizona Connections Academy provides the textbooks and novels students need for their classes but all classes also use online textbooks. The maximum enrollment is 2,500.

“We have a good handful of athletes and kids involved in other activities that take up a lot of their time,” Houseman said.

Some students like to attend the online school because they do not like the drama and chaos often found in traditional, brick-and-mortar high schools, she added.

“To do really well like Malorie, you have to be very driven and motivated, self-motivated,” Houseman said. “She was dedicated to education; she was dedicated to dance.”

She was happy to hear Malorie was accepted to The School of American Ballet.

“It was so exciting to hear about it,” Houseman said. “I knew that was a dream of hers. To see her hard work pay off, that was wonderful. She’s very sweet, very polite, very sociable.”

Getting accepted to The School of American Ballet was thrilling for Malorie.

“It was really exciting,” she said. “I had so much fun. I was so happy to be at the school. It had been my dream for a long time. I didn’t really get homesick because there was so much going on.”

As a student in the prestigious ballet school, Malorie took two ballet classes per day weekdays and one ballet class on Saturdays. She was in the ballet school from September to June and goes home to Chandler for Thanksgiving, as well as winter, spring and summer breaks.

Malorie recently performed in an end-of-year show on stage at Lincoln Center, which was electrifying to be in the same venue where so many talented, professional dancers have entertained audiences.

“It’s kind of hard to believe,” she said.

Malorie also enjoyed performing in the same program as New York City Ballet during her first year in The School of American Ballet at the David H. Koch Theater, part of the Lincoln Center and home of New York City Ballet. The dancers at the school performed different ballets than the New York City Ballet but to share the stage with them the same night was an honor.

“That’s really exciting because that stage has a big history,” Malorie said. “It’s really famous.”

She said she enjoys taking classes taught by New York City Ballet dancers, who guest teach at The School of American Ballet.

“That’s really fun because you get to see them on stage the night before,” Malorie said.

Becoming an apprentice in New York City Ballet is another honor.

Almost all of the current members of New York City Ballet were trained at the School of American Ballet and entered the company via the Apprentices Program, which is managed jointly by New York City Ballet and the School of American Ballet.

Only students who are enrolled at the School of American Ballet are eligible to become apprentices; the New York City Ballet does not hold auditions for these positions, according to the School of American Ballet website.

Apprentices take classes and rehearse with the New York City Ballet six days a week and learn roles in various works from the ballet company’s expansive repertory and they can perform up to eight ballets a season, in addition to the season of George Balanchine’s “The Nutcracker.”

The apprentices are paid the equivalent of a first-year corps member’s salary, which is prorated based on the number of performances they danced every week.

Apprentices still receive the same benefits as students in the School of American Ballet, including continued scholarship support and housing in the school’s residence hall, as well as access to Pilates, physical therapy and nutritional and psychological counseling.

After a maximum of one year, the New York City Ballet and apprentices must decide whether the dancer will become a permanent member of the New York City Ballet.

Malorie is hoping to be offered a position with the ballet company after her apprenticeship is completed.

Dancers can also audition for other ballet companies if they choose, but Malorie hopes to one day perform as a professional in New York City Ballet.

“That would be my goal but I know it’s really hard to do that,” she said.

In the meantime, Malorie has been accepted into Columbia University’s School of General Studies, a liberal arts college that offers returning and nontraditional students a rigorous, traditional Ivy League undergraduate degree part-time or full-time.

She will take classes part-time starting in the fall and she hopes to earn a bachelor’s degree in history.

Houseman is pleased her former student will be attending Columbia University and said Malorie has the skills and dedication to succeed in college.

“It’s very exciting,” she said. “I’m so impressed. Whenever a student makes it into a prestigious school you’re just so excited for them.”

Regardless of what twists and turns her artistic endeavors take, Malorie said she has grown as a dancer and a person living in New York, studying at the well-known ballet school.

“Living on my own I grew up a little,” she said, adding she had to make herself sit down every day to do her academic work.

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