Ella Huggin has her plate full this season.
Aside from the usual stress that comes with the holidays, Ella will have to juggle being a snowflake, a flower and even a rat throughout the month of December.
But the Summit High School sophomore isn't sweating any of it.
“I'm pretty excited,” Ella, 15, said. “I've been wanting to do more performances for a long time.”
Ella, a sophomore at Summit High School, will be one of the dancers in Central Oregon School of Ballet's annual production of “The Nutcracker.” She has donned ballet flats since age 2.
“It's a good form of expression,” Ella said. “It's an art form, and it's pretty to watch. It just makes me happy.”
Ella's spent most of her life learning her craft, and this past summer passed the Royal Academy of Dance's Vocational Advanced Foundation ballet examination. The exam, which tests students' technique and abilities, took place in Vancouver, Canada.
“The most challenging part of it was being away from home,” Ella said. “I'd never danced in that studio before, and I wasn't used to the spacing.”
Valerie Holgers, the teacher and owner of Academie de Ballet Classique in Bend, said studying for the exam is a grueling experience for young dancers. In addition to refining their technique, students must be proficient in vocabulary and be ready for any changes the judge instructor throws at them during the test.
“It's not a trivial thing,” Holgers said.
Leading up to the exam, Ella was practicing for hours each day. Not that her practice schedule ahead of the big test really varied that much from her usual routine. Every day after school, Ella spends at least an hour practicing. She takes some of her school classes online just so that she can organize her schedule around ballet.
Even weekends are consumed with Ella's love for ballet. She goes to Portland every Saturday and takes a daylong class with a student company there. “With ballet, there's always room for improvement,” Ella said. “It makes you work hard. You have to be driven.”
“She has an incredible work ethic,” Holgers said. “She's always in class working really, really hard.”
A steely work ethic appears to be something Ella was born with. Holgers, who has taught Ella for eight years, said that Ella, even as a very young student, was serious and dedicated.
“When she was 7 or 8, I caught her once looking in the mirror at herself,” Holgers said. “She was looking at her hands and moving them to make sure she got the placement exactly right. She wanted to be perfect.”
While Ella's main focus is ballet, she's by no means dragging her feet when it comes to her academics. Ella gets mostly A's in her classes, and holds a 3.9 GPA. Even though she'd rather be in the studio most of the time, she works hard to maintain her grades.
Described as quiet and thoughtful by Holgers, Ella looks forward to playing many different supporting roles in this year's “The Nutcracker.” But that doesn't mean she doesn't want the lead role one day. Her dream is to work for a company as a soloist, and to have a long run as a professional ballet dancer. The ultimate would be to play the lead in the ballet production of “Romeo and Juliet.”
“I love the choreography and costumes in that one,” Ella said “And the story, too.”
Ella says she's not willing to give up on her education to pursue a career in dance, though, and is planning to attend a college that offers students opportunities to be part of companies while simultaneously working toward a degree.
Holgers said Ella's future is, without question, a bright one. “I definitely see her being able to go into dance in the future,” she said. “She could do anything she puts her mind to because of her brightness and work ethic. Work ethic lends a child to success, and she has that in spades.”
Ella Huggin, 15
Summit High School sophomore
Favorite Movie: “Pitch Perfect”
Favorite TV Shows: “Psych,” “How I Met Your Mother”
Favorite Book: “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak
Favorite Music: Indie Rock