Marcus Larson/News-Register##Mia Audova leaps during practice in the Van de Veere dance rehearsal room at Gallery Theater.  Kathleen Van de Veere was her first teacher. This fall, Mia will start an intensive dance program in Philadelphia.
Marcus Larson/News-Register##Mia Audova leaps during practice in the Van de Veere dance rehearsal room at Gallery Theater. Kathleen Van de Veere was her first teacher. This fall, Mia will start an intensive dance program in Philadelphia.
Marcus Larson/News-Register##Mia Audova demonstrates her flexibiity by doing the splits. When she started dance training three years ago, the first things she worked on were becoming flexible and building up her core muscles.
Marcus Larson/News-Register##Mia Audova demonstrates her flexibiity by doing the splits. When she started dance training three years ago, the first things she worked on were becoming flexible and building up her core muscles.
By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

Stopping By: Good pointe

Only two years after beginning her training, she moved to Portland to study full time through the Portland Festival Ballet’s live-in program for promising young dancers. She did her school work on the Internet and danced all day, studying technique, pointe or partnering with teachers such as Kimberly Smiley or Lavinia Maglioceo.

Stopping By

Starla Pointer, who is convinced everyone has an interesting story to tell, has been writing the weekly “Stopping By” column since 1996.

> See her column

Now 13, she’s spending June and July in the Houston ballet’s Summer Intensive training program — her choice among several programs that extended invitations based on competitive auditions.

She’ll return to Lafayette for a couple weeks, enough time to sneak in some training with Victor Ursabia, ballet master from Ballet Philippines. Then she’ll be off again, this time to start a new full-time program at The Rock School for Dance Education in Philadelphia.

The separation is difficult on both Mia and her family.

It represents a huge investment, as well. For example, those toe shoes cost $100 a pair, and they don’t last long.

But those are sacrifices the Audovas are willing to make in order for Mia to pursue her dreams.

They have to invest in Mia’s future now, said her mother, Kim, because she’s at the right age for ballet training. If she waited until college, she wouldn’t be able to catch up.

“It’s crucial they do intensive training now, so, by 16, they can live with a company,” her mother said.

As for Mia? “This is about dancing. Dancing is my life,” she said.

“I’d tell other kids that whatever it is they love to do, they should do it,” she said. “And they should go full out, really go for it.”

Mia is the youngest of Kim and Andrew Audova’s seven children.

Her parents don’t know where her talent originated. They certainly aren’t dancers, her mother said.

As a little girl, Mia showed athletic talents, just as her older brothers and sisters had. She played soccer and basketball while a student at Wascher Elementary School.

Then she signed up for a musical theater class at Van de Veere studios in McMinnville as a 10-year-old. And she excelled.

She wasn’t satisfied with simply singing. She watched jazz, tap and ballet classes before and after her vocal lessons.

“I want to do that, too,” she told her parents, insisting until they gave in.

“I had so much fun, I wanted to keep going,” she explained. “I wanted to do it all.”

When she started dancing, she showed not only skill, but a determination unusual in young students, said her first teacher, Kathleen Van de Veere. She said Mia had the right combination of talent, drive and dedication to make her successful.

But even at 10, many teachers would have considered Mia too old to become great. Many professional ballerinas started their training at the age of 3.

Mia concentrated on her lessons, built up her core muscles and worked on her flexibility.

“A lot of things in dance ... if you’re not flexible, it just doesn’t look right,” she explained. “My goal is to look perfect, like it doesn’t hurt at all.”

She watched the more experienced dancers and copied their movements, trying again and again until she could do them flawlessly.

After dance class, she went home, put on her own music and danced some more, for hours on end. She danced shows for her family.

“We had to fight to get her to stop dancing and go to bed,” her mother recalled.

Mia was so devoted, her parents converted their upstairs loft into a dance studio so she could practice.

“Dancing is like floating ...,” she said. “There’s nothing like it.”

Soon Mia was dancing six days a week with Van de Veere, taking classes at both her McMinnville and West Linn studios.

She also enrolled in ballet classes offered by Lakewood Center for the Arts in Lake Oswego. And she auditioned for the “Will Rogers Follies” at Gallery Theater, winning a role as Van de Veere’s daughter.

She was spending so much time dancing, her parents decided to have her complete her academic program at home instead of sending her to public school.

She’ll continue her home schooling, via the Internet, this fall at The Rock. She’ll hit the books from 8 to 10 a.m., then switch to dance mode.

Later, when she’s dancing professionally, she plans to go to college online.

“There is stuff I like to do besides dance,” she said, as if bored by the question. “I like writing. Maybe I’ll be a writer afterward.”

A year after she started studying dance with Van de Veere, Mia entered a competition. She was nervous, she said, but tried to forget her nerves and focus on doing her best. She felt good about her solo, she said.

Though still nervous, she felt much better the second year. Judges thought so, too, giving her top awards.

“It doesn’t feel like anything is changing at the time, until you look back,” she said.

Van de Veere acknowledged that Mia’s skills improved by leaps and bounds from one year to the next. “She improved her flexibility, the choreography was much more difficult, and she’d become really good at acting,”  the teacher said.

The acting comes easily, Mia said. “I listen to the music a million times and act like it’s happening to me, or if there are no words, I make up a story,” she said.

She said her vocal and musical theater training helps.

“Ballet is a lot of emotion,” she explained. “Ballets tend to have tragedies — happy parts, too, but tragedies. You need to be able to express emotion.”

Mia’s immediate goal is to do well at The Rock, a school known for producing professional ballerinas. She wants to win a place in a company in a few years.

“You have to start in the corps, and keep working all the time so they’ll notice you and you’ll get promoted,” she said.

Sometimes, she said, directors will “throw you into a role” to see if you’re right for it. “If you handle it, they’ll move you up.” she said.

Eventually, she said, she wants to be dancing major roles and become the prima ballerina in her company.

That’s what she’s working for every day, whether it’s in her home studio, at ballet school or in the summer workshop. She has to work  hard, she said.

“It’s like being a professional athlete,” she said. “You have to be ready at a certain time, and you don’t get to do it that long.”

Each decision she makes about her training is another step toward her goal.

She loved Van de Veere, for instance, but knew she had to move on to other teachers. She made progress in Portland, but wanted to find a new school in which she will continue to grow.

And when it came time to choose between the summer programs that wanted her, she weighed the options carefully before choosing Houston.

“It’s so intense,” she said. “They’ll really push me.”

She pushes herself, she said, but she needs someone else to apply pressure, as well.

“Teachers can make me better,” she said. “They can help improve my technique, so my dancing is clean, stable, stronger.”

 

Mia expects to find positive pressure at The Rock, as well. She chose the school for its record of producing professional dancers, as well as because it offered her a 50 percent scholarship.

Still, it will be a major step moving from Lafayette to Philadelphia, the farthest she’s ever lived from her family.

She’s looking at it as a huge adventure. “Really big buildings and so pretty,” Mia described the city she’s visited once thus far.

She will live with other students in an apartment across a busy street from the school. She’ll be responsible for doing her own laundry, getting up in time and making it to meals in the school cafeteria.

She and other students will work with a nutritionist to make sure they eat properly to support their growing bodies and give them strength for training and dancing. They’ll be closely monitored to keep them safe, as well; students must be in groups if they want to leave the school campus, Mia’s mother said happily.

“They have amazing security,” she said.

That makes Mia’s pending departure easier to take, she said. A little.

“Usually you say goodbye to your kids when they turn 18,” Mia’s mother said. “We just have to get used to saying goodbye when she’s 13.”

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