Two bright young women from Wilsonville are hard at work putting in countless hours of preparation for the Portland Ballet's upcoming spring performance, "Current/Classic."
Both Savannah Rodriguez, 16, and Kyra Yannotta, 13, have put their heart and soul into training to become world-class dancers, and they're hoping to prove to themselves they're on track to break through into the professional world in just a few short years.
For Yannotta, her life in ballet began when she joined a Russian ballet studio in Portland at the age of seven.
"I was really rambunctious kid, but at the same time I didn't like getting hurt so my parents didn't know what to do with me," Yannotta said. "A lot of people recommended putting me in the arts, and I took my first ballet class, loved every second of it and it kind of just went on from there."
At age 11, Yannotta's skills and technique were rapidly improving and she wanted to get more serious about her training. To do that she joined the Portland Ballet and became a member of the organization's career track program, where she's studied and performed since.
She currently trains in Portland six days a week, often staying in the studio from noon to as late as 9 p.m. some days. She completes coursework through Summit Learning Charter, an online academy for talented young people like Yannotta who have heavy time commitments to their extracurricular activities.
"The hours don't feel that long because I'm usually focusing so hard," she said. "Ballet just takes time and practice, and you can't accel your training or fast forward. You just have to be there and put in the work."
Rodriguez also started at a young age. She first began dancing at age five, but it wasn't until about five years ago she really became serious about her training.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Portland Ballet "Current/Classic"
WHEN: May 4-5, 7:30 p.m.
WHERE: Lincoln Performance Hall, 1620 S.W. Park Ave., Portland
ADMISSION: Tickets at theportland ballet.org/ performance /current-classic.
Three years ago she joined the Portland Ballet's youth company and hasn't looked back since.
"I love everything about it. I love the costumes. I love performing. It's just so much fun," Rodriguez said.
She particularly enjoyed holiday performances that took place at the end of 2017. Having grown up performing "The Nutcracker Suite" as a child, getting to play a role in the Portland Ballet's annual holiday performance "The Enchanted Toy Shop" offered similar parallels with a fresh take.
Rodriguez is excited for the upcoming performance of "Current/Classic" because of the variety of dances that are included in the program from classical ballet to more modern and contemporary pieces choreographed by Creative Director Anne Mueller.
"I'm excited about it because it's my first youth company performance. I'll probably nervous when it gets closer, but right now I'm just focused on getting it down and all the technique work," Rodriguez said.
The show will have a blend of career track and youth company performances, allowing audiences the opportunity to see a wide swath of the students who are training hard each and every day at the Portland Ballet, including Rodriguez and Yannotta.
Yannotta looks forward to taking the stage next month alongside her fellow career track and youth company dancers after spending so much time in the studio perfecting their routines.
She attributes much of her personal growth to her rigorous ballet training, and she hopes to use that to propel her into a career in the future.
"I used to be very sensitive emotionally and physically, and ballet is as tough physically as it is mentally," Yannotta said. "You get rejected a lot in ballet. You get rejected a lot in most things, but in ballet it's really tough to make it at a professional level and you have to be prepared for rejection. You have to be able to
realize if you're not the right fit."
That's not the case, however, for Yannotta and the Portland Ballet. It seems she has found the right fit and is taking full advantage of the position she's put herself in to succeed in the future.
Yannotta explains that she hopes to audition for the School of American Ballet in New York City when she's 16 or 17, and eventually attend and train there. She continues to ramp up her training by attending new summer programs each year across the country. This summer she'll head to Texas, where she will take part in a rigorous program held by the Houston Ballet Academy.
As for now, all focus is turned on the spring performance, and working hard to bring "Current/Classic" — mixed-repertoire program of contemporary and classic pieces — to life.
"I find dancing is a way to express myself without using words," Yannotta said. "I was always shy as a kid. I sometimes get nervous, and basically I just have to focus on the fact that I know my steps, I know what I'm doing and I just need to perform."
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