Park City ballerina leaps into World Ballet Art Competition in San Diego
Park City ballet dancer McCallister “Callie” Mick has been dancing since before she was in elementary school. So the 17-year-old knows what she has to do when she heads to the World Ballet Art Competition Grand Prix in San Diego Sunday.
“This will be my senior year competing, so this is my time to display my technique and artistry to the companies that will be there,” Mick said during a rehearsal break at the studio of her teacher Natalia Chapourskaya-Lobachkova, a former principal with the Kirov Ballet and the Mikhailovski Theatre in Russia.
The competition will be held from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday at the California Center for the Arts, and Mick plans to perform two technically different works — “Medora” from “Le Corsaire” and a variation from the classic work “Giselle.”
“‘Giselle’ is more of a fluid dance,” Mick said. “It’s the story of a girl who has a heart problem, so the movements are gentle and almost sad in a way.”
“Giselle” is also special for Mick because it is the ballet that Chapourskaya-Lobachkova danced when she was prima ballerina with the Perm Academic Opera and Ballet Theater.
“I’ve always looked up to the role, and I’ve always seen Natalia’s photos of her as Giselle when I come to the studio,” Mick said.
The variation is the easier to dance of the two, Mick said.
“It’s because it’s slower, except for the end, when it gets really frantic,” she said.
“Medora,” on the other hand, is a stoic dance that is performed with strength and confidence, according to Mick.
““The character is a queen, so she’s more in your face,” she said. “I’m really excited about ‘Medora’ because I’ve never done any variations from that ballet.”
The costumes for each work help Mick get into the roles.
“For ‘Giselle,’ I wear a long, romantic tutu that flows when I dance, and it’s easy to dance delicately when I’m wearing it,” she said. “In ‘Medora,’ I wear a stiff, white tutu that is adorned with crystals and sparkly embroidery. And I also have to wear a big crown.”
Another trick that helps Mick get into the characters is to play them up for her audience.
“When you enter the stage, you have to feel the people who are watching you,” she said. “You have to dance as if you are interacting with them.”
Mick also relies on the years of training she’s had with Chapourskaya-Lobachkova.
“I took my first class with Natalia when I was 7,” Mick said. “I was very scared because it was my first experience with a real Russian teacher.”
Mick was enrolled in an afternoon program at Park City Dance Academy, which has since become the Peggy Bergmann Ballet West Academy.
“After a couple of months with Natalia, I realized that I needed to become more focused, so I started to take dance more seriously,” Mick said. “So I asked her if she would give me private lessons, because I wanted to strengthen myself and work on my flexibility.”
Mick enjoyed learning from Chapourskaya-Lobachkova.
“I would watch her dance and she became a huge inspiration,” Mick said. “She never made me feel like I had to do things to better myself. She left that to me.”
After a while, Chapourskaya-Lobachkova suggested Mick find a school to enhance her private training. So, the young dancer began taking classes at Salt Lake City Ballet.
“It was so much fun, and I had some great teachers and experiences, but I grew out of their curriculum at 13,” Mick said. “I started to feel that I needed to dance with girls who were more advanced in technique to help me grow.”
A former teacher referred Mick to the Indiana Ballet Conservatory.
“I left Utah and spent two years there, and did some competitions,” she said.
A short time later, Mick learned that one of her Salt Lake City Ballet teachers had moved to Spain to treach ballet. With the permission of her parents — Shawn and Jay — Mick, then 14, moved to Spain to study.
Mick is grateful for her parents’ support.
“My dad, Jay, told me if I worked hard, he would make sure my family would help me get to where I want to be,” Mick said. “My mom on the other hand is my travel buddy. She’s in no way a dance mom. In fact, she always tells me not to teach her any dance terms, because she doesn’t want to know.”
In addition to studying ballet in Spain, Mick took advantage of her time in Europe to take master classes and compete in Paris, Brussels and Italy.
“Dancing in Europe was very eye opening, because it’s more of a friendly community there,” she said. “All the dancers in Europe that I have competed against not only have more respect for the teachers, they are also more supportive of each other. While competing In the United States, I sometimes feel like I’m getting sized up from other dancers when we’re all backstage.”
Two-and-a-half years ago, Mick was accepted to compete in the Youth American Grand Prix in New York City, but suffered a stress fracture in her foot before the event.
“Not only was I disappointed, the fracture ruined some of my confidence because I cut down on my mobility,” she said. “Getting back into the studio was hard for me, so I took a break to clear my head.”
During that break, Mick enrolled in the University of North Carolina School of Art, but dropped out because she needed to dance more than what the curriculum offered.
“I returned to Spain for a couple of months and returned to the United States, with the feeling that I needed to find a place here that would fulfill my desire to dance,” she said. “I also needed to figure out if I wanted to become a trainee or if I wanted to shoot for a company position.”
Last year, the Academy of Russian Ballet in Michigan offered Mick a trainee position.
“It was the best training that I’ve ever had,” she said. “I loved rehearsals, even though they lasted nine hours at a time.”
However, Mick suffered another injury just before “The Nutcracker” last winter.
“I tore my lateral collateral ligament, and I had to come back to Park City because my physical therapist is here,” she said.
Mick started a six-month physical therapy program, during which she phoned Chapourskaya-Lobachkova.
“I asked if I could come back, because I needed to start dancing from scratch, and I always felt at home with her and the Russian philosophy,” Mick said. “She said of course, and we embarked on an intense training session and physical therapy, and I now feel ready to compete.”
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