Vail Valley dancer is stepping out of the wings
Vail, CO Colorado
She spends hours and hours of training, six days a week and sometimes seven. She relocated back East for her junior and senior years of high school for more intense training and competition.
No, we’re not talking about ski racing, but ballet dancing.
This is the life that 18-year-old Alison Caspersen has been living since 2008. It began with a dream that emerged when she started taking ballet at Vail Valley Academy of Dance as a little girl. She trained there until she was 16 and then was accepted into the prestigious Rock School in Philadelphia and graduated from their academic high school program this spring. The Rock is one of the best ballet/academic schools in the United States and its graduates are dancing with companies worldwide. As with other top-tier athletes, it is necessary for ballet students to go where they will get advanced training.
“My parents enrolled me in ballet when I was four at Vail Valley Academy of Dance,” Caspersen said. “As I continued, my love for dancing grew and I knew that I wanted to be a professional dancer.”
From the time she was 13, Caspersen spent her summers traveling to different dance programs around the country.
“Being around new dancers inspired me to further my education and so I began to audition for year-round programs across the country,” she said. “After auditioning and being accepted, I decided to go to the Rock School for Dance Education in Philadelphia my junior year of high school. I learned a ton there and I feel that I improved.”
To Ballet Austin and beyond
This summer Caspersen traveled to Austin, Tex. for the Ballet Austin summer program, which serves as an audition for their trainee program.
“Now I am going to spend the next year with Ballet Austin hopefully learning more and eventually finding a position with a company,” she said.
Caspersen’s parents, Robert and Kay, live in Edwards. They traveled to Philadelphia for two years as often as they could for performances and to take their daughter to auditions in East Coast cities. As with most young people who are focused on a clear path to achieving their dream, Caspersen’s parents have been wholly committed to helping her. The support that Vail Valley Academy of Dance and also Friends of the Dance, a non-profit that supports local dancers and dance teachers, was invaluable for Caspersen, she said.
“The teachers at Vail Valley Academy of Dance always encouraged us to expand our technique by training at other programs during the summer,” she said. “They reassured us that it would make a difference and our dancing would improve dramatically. Also, Friends of Dance was there to support me with every action I took. They praised me for being an inspiration for venturing out and training at new programs. I truly appreciate everything they have done for me.”
Anne Powell, director of Vail Valley Academy of Dance and Vail Youth Ballet Company, said that at first, Caspersen didn’t have the “natural physical characteristics of a dancer.”
“Through her own determination, desire, hard work and love of dance she has achieved those attributes,” Powell said. “Alison was always open to correction and applied those corrections. That is a beneficial attitude for learning.”
The competition, especially for a female dancer, is cutthroat.
“The competition in the real ballet world is intense,” Caspersen said. “There are so many dancers competing to get a position and killing themselves to get a job and/or be the best. During auditions it is practically a full-on fight to get the front and center spot. Luckily some people you meet are encouraging and supportive while others, not so much.”
From a young age, Caspersen was exposed to world class dance thanks to the annual Vail International Dance Festival.
“The dance festival is so inspiring to me,” Caspersen said. “I am excited to be able to see many major ballet stars all at once. It also reminds me how far I have come, but shows me how far I still have to go. Now I recognize many of the variations they perform as I have learned a lot of them. During the performances I am on the edge of my seat waiting for all my favorite parts. This summer no one disappointed me. Their performances took my breath away.”
Now, Caspersen is preparing for her time in Austin, which will certainly be challenging
“A normal day for a trainee begins at 9 a.m.,” she said. “We take a ballet technique class for an hour and a half, then a pointe class or partnering for an hour. Next an hour and a half of jazz, modern, or musical theater class. At 1 p.m. we have a break and depending on the season, we later have rehearsal from 1:30 to 3 p.m.”
Hard work but, like any athlete or artist, Caspersen is grateful for the opportunity.
Joanne Moore is the secretary for Friends of the Dance. E-mail comments about this story to firstname.lastname@example.org.