Dancing though life | VailDaily.com

Dancing though life

Cindy Ramunno
Dancer Amelia Sturt-Dilley

Amelia Sturt-Dilley — r emember that name.

The Gypsum resident will graduate from Juilliard School in New York City this spring, which is a huge accomplishment. Sturt-Dilley’s dancing is what landed her at the school.

Juilliard School was founded in 1905 as the Institute of Musical Art. Very few prospective students do well in enough in the auditions to get accepted. Only 6.7 percent of applicants are admitted and those students come from all over the world. There are currently just 843 college students at the school from 40 countries. Once enrolled, graduation is not guaranteed as the school’s graduation rate is just over 81 percent.

But once students earn a degree, the numbers also tell their stories. Juilliard alumni have collectively won more than 105 Grammy Awards, 62 Tony Awards, 47 Emmy Awards, 26 Bessie Awards, 24 Academy Awards, 16 Pulitzer Prizes and 12 National Medals for the Arts.

After spending her break in the valley, Sturt-Dilley is now back in New York City to finish up her last semester a Juilliard. While she was in the valley, many locals may have run into her at Pastatively Restaurant in Eagle, where she worked the entire break.

“I started working at Pastatively the summer before I went to Juilliard,” said Sturt-Dilley. “It was kind of my first real job and I absolutely love working there.”

Sturt-Dilley always seems to be around during the restaurant’s busiest weeks, which has worked out well. “I usually work in the dining room and whip up a few fancy new desserts back in the kitchen,” said Sturt-Dilley, who loves to bake. “Even with all the amazing restaurants in Manhattan, I miss it when I’m gone,” said Sturt-Dilley of the restaurant.

So in a few years, locals may have a great “I remember her when” tale regarding Sturt-Dilley.

Home Town Roots

Sturt-Dilley was born in Lansing, Michigan, but moved to Gypsum when she was in the third grade. After attending elementary and middle school here, she packed up and went to Walnut Hill School in Natick, MA, and graduated in 2011.

Walnut Hill is a boarding school where Sturt-Dilley’s discipline in dance intensified. She would attend her academic classes in the morning, and then she would dance for about four hours in the afternoons.

“When I was taking ballet here in the valley, the commute to Edwards to Glenwood every day was tough,” said Sturt-Dilley. “At Walnut Hill it was such a privilege to live steps from the dance studio.”

Sturt-Dilley was also co-president of the AIDS action committee and a student representative at the school.

She credits her mother as the reason she has been able to pursue her dance dream.

“My mom is the most inspiring woman I have ever known,” said Sturt-Dilley. “She has sacrificed so much to support me. She is my best friend and my rock.”

Sturt-Dilley’s younger brother, Chris, is a junior at Eagle Valley High School and due to Sturt-Dilley’s crazy schedule, the two recently got their driving permits on the same day.

“How embarrassing,” she said . “My brother is a wiz with cars – I think I’ll make him teach me how to drive a stick.”

Juilliard Dream

Although Sturt-Dilley always planned to dance, she never planned to attend Juilliard. During her high school summers, she volunteered to hand out programs at the Vail International Dance Festival, and she remembers watching dancers from Larry Keigwin’s company in total awe. This year at school, Keigwin choreographed a piece for Sturt-Dilley.

“I still think back to watching him all those years ago, and if someone had told me that one day he would be choreographing for me at the Juilliard school, there is no way I would have believed it.”

Sturt-Dilley’s original plan was to forgo college and jump right into dancing in a company. She only auditioned at Juilliard because it was something her instructors expected all of their students to do. As a result, Sturt-Dilley felt absolutely no pressure during the audition.

She remembers the audition process being very intense — 14 days of auditions with about 50 different dancers assigned to one specific day. There were seven cuts and even if dancers made it to the final interview, that wasn’t a guaranteed acceptance.

From Sturt-Dilley’s audition group, only two were accepted. Ironically, the other student accepted from her group was a male dancer who shares a birthday with Sturt-Dilley. Once accepted, students don’t get the typical acceptance letter – someone from the admissions office actually makes a phone call.

“When I received my call I was at the gym,” said Sturt-Dilley. “After I hung up the phone I just sat down at the end of the treadmill and began to laugh and cry simultaneously.”

Universal Language

Sturt-Dilley loves her world of dance, and she truly believes that dance is the universal language.

“The ability to convey emotion and ideas without using words is incredibly powerful,” she said. Sturt-Dilley is also considered a great jumper and she credits growing up at high altitude for part of that.

Juilliard opened her eyes to an array of styles, techniques, and artists, and Sturt-Dilley has worked with Broadway choreographers at the school.

“I am constantly surrounded by inspiration,” she said . “My peers both within the dance division and in other disciplines are mind-blowingly talented.”

Living in New York City, near Lincoln Center, Sturt-Dilley is surrounded by the beauty of the arts. A year from now, she’d like to be dancing professionally and continuing to grow. She will audition this semester.

“I have confidence that my hard work and passion for dance will take me right to where I’m supposed to be.”

The advice she would give to those who want to audition for Juilliard is to go for it.

“Juilliard is an absolutely amazing place to be,” she said.

She also advises that it’s not the end of the world if you aren’t accepted to your ‘first-choice’ school.

“It’s important to remember that it isn’t the only place…there is no perfect formula to being accepted,” she said. “Have faith and trust that you’ll end up in the right place,” she said . “My advice would be to keep an open mind and not to say no too often.”

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