Lauren Cook began her dance training at Chester Valley Dance Academy at a young age and studied all styles of dance. As a CVDA Company Dancer, she participated in various conventions in addition to annual Nutcracker Performances and Recitals. She is now a first year undergraduate student at the University of Pittsburgh pursuing a degree in Psychology. Outside of her academic studies, she is a member of the Ballet Club at Pitt, a student run club that produces two shows per year; the Nutcracker and an annual recital. The club features weekly classes run by the student members.
This past semester, Lauren danced the role of Clara in the club’s production of the Nutcracker. After years and years of performing the Nutcracker with Chester Valley, this was a new and exciting opportunity. She reflects on this special experience:
As Clara, I only had two rehearsals per week for the Party Scene and the Act 1 Pas de Deux. In our show, Clara dances with the Nutcracker in place of the Snow Queen and King, and was my favorite part of the show. This scene was also extra special to me since I danced to the same music last year as Snow Queen.
I really enjoyed rehearsing for this production and made some great friends in the process including my partner for the pas de deux who is both an amazing dancer and person who I am so lucky to work with. The stage setup for the performance is much different than Chester Valley’s, no wings, or backdrops, or curtains, but I knew how to adjust to different spaces well due to my training at CVDA.
One Ballet Club tradition before every show is that we all did the Cotton Eyed Joe after warm up class. It sounds so random and silly but it was such a fun moment that we all shared. My parents and a few family members traveled all the way out to Pittsburgh for the show and I had a huge fan club of my college friends in the audience for both shows. The shows overall went really well and I feel satisfied with my performance. I was the last person to come out for bows and that special feeling of bowing as Clara while the audience cheered and applauded will stick with me forever. Tears formed in my eyes of pure happiness and pride for myself and my hard work.
The only hard parts about performing this show was knowing that I wasn’t performing alongside my CVDA girls and that Miss Kim and all my other supportive CVDA teachers weren’t in the wings. However, they all were so supportive of me even from across the state and I’m thankful for all of the words of encouragement.
Lauren is looking forward to more Nutcracker performances with the Ballet Club and is excited for the opportunity to choreograph in future performances, “I plan on choreographing one of the scenes in next fall's Nutcracker which I'm already excited for. I’ve never done this before but I think it will be a great opportunity to experience dance from the other side of rehearsals.”
With a busy schedule of classes, studying, group projects, and dance club rehearsals, Lauren still finds time to take ballet class for herself. Saturday mornings, she and some of her friends take the bus downtown to the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater for class, “Being able to take a professional class surrounded by other great dancers is refreshing. I always feel satisfied after working hard and pushing myself bright and early to help keep my technique.“
Lauren reflected on how her CVDA experience has helped her with her dance education in college.
Being brought up with such an emphasis on ballet really helped my technique and overall skill level over the years. Even the little things from CVDA stick with me throughout my college experience such as time management, open-mindedness, and the value of friendship. Most importantly, Chester Valley is the place that made me find my love for dance which I will forever be grateful for. I always felt inspired, motivated, and confident with the support of my CVDA teachers throughout my whole life which is why I kept dancing in college to continue those feelings.
For all of the CVDA Dancers who wish to pursue dance in college, Lauren shares these words:
Don’t give up dancing if you have the chance to continue after high school. You’ll always find your way back to the things that you’re passionate about, even if you didn’t plan on it. I had zero intentions of dancing after high school because I knew nothing could ever compare to my experience at Chester Valley, but now I realize that I’m not myself without dance in my life and I believe many of you will realize that you feel the same way.
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