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Juilliard School ballerina Macy Sullivan hosts class at local dance studio
by: courtesy of Forest Grove Dance Arts, Macy Sullivan puts Forest Grove ballet students through their paces.

Forest Grove Dance Arts (FGDA) owner and artistic director Patty Petersen considers her studio of more than 450 students a family. Last weekend, that family got its token famous cousin back East in the form of Macy Sullivan, a dance student at New York's ultra-prestigious Juilliard School.

The Camas, Wash., native spent two days in Forest Grove teaching four intensive master classes in ballet to students ranging from elementary to high school age.

According to students, 'intensive' might have been an understatement: For approximately 90 minutes, they were under the tutelage of a teacher whose experience is at the highest caliber.

'It was definitely intense. I could barely walk (after the class),' said Liza White, 14, who teaches at the studio and participated in two classes with Sullivan. 'She was an amazing instructor. I learned how much it takes to be in the professional world.'

Sullivan, 20, enters her third year at Juilliard this fall, specializing in tap. She started dancing in a small studio not unlike FGDA before joining Oregon Ballet Theatre at age 13. That same year, she won the World Tap Dance Championships in Ljubljana, Slovenia, where she was told by the American adjudicator that tap was the best discipline for a dancer of her height, 4-foot-11.

Small-town girl

A small-town girl with lofty ambitions, Sullivan said she was shocked when she was accepted to Juilliard - a school so exclusive only 12 dancers are admitted each year.

'I never saw this coming. I didn't expect the admissions call from Juilliard,' said Sullivan, who strives to enter the world of musical theatre. 'I always knew dance would be part of my life, but I didn't think I would go through all the levels of the school and dance at Juilliard. It's an exciting journey.'

Currently on summer vacation, Sullivan came to Forest Grove after being contacted by Petersen for a guest teaching spot.

Between teaching and taking summer classes, she hasn't had much time to hang up her dancing shoes - and that's just the way she likes it.

'When you're a dancer, not dancing makes you batty. When I'm not dancing, I'm always doing something physical,' said Sullivan. 'It's kind of hardwired into dancers.'

New level of dance

Sullivan's success story and ambitions are an inspiration to the students of FGDA, some of whom said the experience was an eye opener.

'We weren't expecting the world. We were just expecting Miss Macy to give us some insight into a bigger dance world,' said 14-year-old student Hayley Evers. 'What she did was told us how to improve our technique.'

'It opened our eyes to a new level of dance. She broke the barriers.'

Petersen said Sullivan's visit instilled a new perspective into her students by allowing them to learn from somebody who started from similar roots, and remains humble despite her success.

Great role model

'What a great role model for my girls. Sometimes with professionals you may not get that, with the self-centeredness they can have,' said Petersen. 'This was really neat for them.'

Sullivan, who returns to New York next month, said she would love another chance to work with the students in Forest Grove.

She added she was impressed by their grace and etiquette.

'Grit your teeth'

Before she left, Sullivan offered advice to any dancer whose ambitions might include being among the illustrious dozen admitted to the nation's most prestigious dance school.

'Sometimes you have to grit your teeth and bear it. There are always peaks and valleys,' said Sullivan. 'When you're in the low spots, that's when you grit your teeth.'

'When you come out, though, the peaks are even higher.'

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