On pointe
Most students will sit down to dinner with their families this Thanksgiving. Not Ellie Frith. She will lace her ballet shoes to dance in “The Nutcracker” at the Houston Ballet, which opens Nov. 29. The 17-year-old Performance Learning Center (PLC) student attends the Houston Ballet Academy year-round.

Ellie is in the eLearning Academy through PLC. The program provides students access to various district online and dual-enrollment opportunities. It is an option for juniors and seniors who have an unweighted grade-point average of 2.5 or higher. Students are in full-time virtual courses.

When Ellie was 15, she was accepted into the Houston Ballet Academy, which meant she had to leave her home school, Myers Park High, her friends and her family, and grow up quickly. Ellie had to find an off-campus apartment within weeks of her acceptance, get a roommate and take accelerated cooking courses from her mother, Barbara.

“The first year in Houston was very stressful. I had to learn how to cook and that was an adventure,” said Ellie. “My mom taught me a lot about time management. You don’t realize how much you have to do on your own until you actually do.”

Ellie began dancing at the age of 3. She said she became serious about dancing when she was 7 years old while attending the North Carolina Dance Theatre's School of Dance in Charlotte for a year-round program. When she was 13, she began attending the summer program at Houston Ballet. She auditioned in 2012 and was accepted into Houston’s year-round program. There are only 13 girls and eight boys who train in the Level 8 division with Ellie. After Level 8, dancers may be hired in a junior company and audition for professional ballet companies.

Photo by: Peter Zay of zayphoto.com Now in her senior year of high school, Ellie practices from nine to five six days a week and studies at night. During peak performance season, Ellie also adds rehearsals to her already jam-packed schedule.

“It’s very hard and very tiring. You’re physically and mentally tired at the end of the day, but when you love it, you enjoy it and look forward to it,” said Ellie. “It isn’t difficult to stay focused, because everyone else is just as determined and we all want to be in the profession.”

There are about 60 shows a year at the ballet company. Ellie does not dance in every show but has danced in several including “The Nutcracker” where she debuted last year and will return for performances this season.

In the spring, Ellie will begin auditions for professional companies, including the Houston Ballet.

Last photo by: Peter Zay of zayphoto.com