MUSIC CENTER — In the short time Anya Fitzpatrick has been formally practicing ballet, the refined but exacting dance form has commanded many hours, money and even tears from the Santa Monica native.
But none of those have kept her from pursuing her deepest passion, making her a better person.
“(Ballet) is something that you have to want to do,” she said. “You have to be a kind of person who wants to be the best that they can be.”
After practicing ballet formally for three years, the 14-year-old Fitzpatrick has been cast in the American Ballet Theatre’s production of “Le Corsaire.” The production debuts tonight, July 12, at the Music Center in Downtown L.A. at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and continues through July 14.
Fitzpatrick will play one of the young dancers in a dream from the show, which is based on Lord Byron’s poem about a maiden and the pirate who falls in love with her.
Ballet is far from an archaic dance form, said Alexandra Grigoriev, wife of Yuri Grigoriev, the director of the dance academy Fitzpatrick attends. Even modern dancers on shows like “So You Think You Can Dance” often need background training in basic ballet techniques, she said.
“It’s important to know where dance came from, and… (ballet) enriches a person no matter when they come to it,” she said.
At the Yuri Grigoriev School of Ballet, where Fitzpatrick trains almost every day, dancers are required to follow a rigorous regimen of classes.
On Mondays, Fitzpatrick has two hours of contemporary dance. Tuesday is three hours of character and technique. Wednesday is Russian ballet. Thursday is variations and Friday is modern dance. She spends almost all day Saturdays at the ballet school with stretch, point and general ballet classes. Rehearsals at the Music Center in Downtown L.A. for “Le Corsaire” are separate time commitments, and require more driving.
At the ballet school, it’s a “terrific” accomplishment to get a “not bad” comment from the teacher, Alexandra Grigoriev said.
More than just technique, the dancers are also required to show a certain behavior and etiquette in class, she added. Even young dancers still in middle school are expected to curtsy, keep their hair neat and ask the teacher for permission before leaving the room.
Though ballet is Fitzpatrick’s strongest passion, however, it doesn’t come without a price.
Even among middle-school-aged dancers, the competition that comes with the art — which is especially felt when parts are assigned for performances — had in the past led to tension between other dancers and herself, Fitzpatrick said. Some interactions with her peers have not been friendly and sometimes led her to tears.
Ballet has also required Fitzpatrick and her mother, Diana Carey, to make significant financial sacrifices. Carey, a single mom, took on several low-paying jobs to pay for Fitzpatrick’s training and gave up their Santa Monica apartment to pay for a summer ballet training camp in Houston last year.
Carey said it’s a blessing for them when Fitzpatrick finds weekend baby-sitting jobs and dance store photoshoot gigs to help pay for her training and ballet shoes.
“Ballet basically consumes our world,” Carey said. “We pretty much live it, breathe it, eat it.”
She said, however, that Fitzpatrick being able to become a better person, learn discipline and be grounded in something she loves are all worth the sacrifices their family makes.
Despite the high costs, ballet is still Fitzpatrick’s greatest ambition. She said she hopes to join either of the most prestigious ballet academies in the world — the Bolshoi Academy in Moscow or the Vaganova Ballet Academy in St. Petersburg, Russia. Until then, she explores science on the side, sometimes making and playing with robots with the people she baby-sits.
“Le Corsaire” tickets are available at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion Box Office on 135 N. Grand Ave. in Los Angeles for $34 to $125. Tickets can also be purchased by calling (213) 972-0711 or visiting www.musiccenter.org/events/dance.html.