Back to school

Photo by Tom Steiner for The Citizen

Almost every girl has that ballerina dream. The lights, the tights, the music, the Prince Char-ming.

But then come the practice -- hours of practice -- along with ankle sprains and instructors' demands and so often that dream becomes a memory, along with Barbies and other childhood interests.

Amy Herchenroether, the daughter of Wendy and Dan Herchenroether of Ben Avon, probably experienced all of those stages in her dance training, but since starting "…about when I was 3," her love of dance has grown with her skills, and at age 17, the dedication is beginning to pay off.

"I used to dance around a lot. My parents didn't push me to do anything; I just always enjoyed it. It's always been my passion."

Amy started Pitts-burgh Ballet School, located in the Strip District, at age 4, developing her skills and enjoying the opportunities to perform in productions of the "Nutcracker" and "Cinderella."

During the summer between her sophomore and junior years of high school, she attended the Boston Ballet School.

Affiliated with the Boston Ballet Company, the Boston Ballet School is one of the largest and most prestigious dance instructional schools in the country.

Amy had learned of the Boston program through Pittsburgh Ballet directors Dennis Marshall and Marjorie Grundvig, both formerly associated with Boston Ballet.

Although she never expected that summer to be more than "…a great experience," it served as an audition for an extended stay in Boston.

"They asked me to stay for the year-long program. I was really excited for the chance to do it."

Amy will take her high school academic classes online via e-CADEMY, arranged through the Allegheny Intermediate Unit, and she also has set up an Advanced Placement English course online.

"I'll be able to complete all of the academic requirements," said Amy, a consistent honor roll student who was inducted into National Honor Society in May.

Amy is used to the responsibility of her unique and individualized forms of instruction. Last year, she studied ballet from 8 until 9:30 each morning, arrived at Avonworth for her fourth period class, continued through the school day and then returned to Pittsburgh Ballet for additional instruction through 6:30 each evening.

In Boston, her ballet instruction will run from 10 in the morning to 4 each afternoon, six days a week, with her academic school work schedule "…up to me.It might be difficult, at first," Amy admits.

Completion of her studies will earn Amy an Avonworth diploma, "…the first Avonworth student not to be a resident of Pennsylvania," Amy's mother said. "But Avonworth has been great about being accommodating and flexible," she noted.

And where does all of this work lead?

"Ideally, I'd like to get a job with a ballet company in the next 2-4 years," Amy said. "But I'm also keeping the doors open for college next year or the year after."

Added to her independent academic and rehearsal schedules will be the responsibility of living "college-style" a year earlier than her peers.

"We're focusing on the positive aspects of this opportunity, but we'll be visiting Boston quite often," Amy's mother said.

Amy shares some of her mom's mixed feelings. "It's scary, but I'm really excited about it."

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