Sticking Out In the Crowd: Rebecca Shull’s Dancing Career

Krystal Koski, Staff Writer

Being in a crowded room filled with unfamiliar faces is difficult enough, let alone attempting to stick out as someone with potential. For junior Rebecca Shull, the crowded rooms and extreme competition became a reality this past summer.

Rebecca travelled down to Florida earlier this year to participate in the Miami City Ballet’s summer intensive classes. These classes were filled to the brim with top-notch ballerinas, making the competition between the students more intense.

“I really had to work to stand out,” Rebecca said. “I had to do my best every single day to get noticed.”

While in Miami, Rebecca took classes with the goal of furthering her technique. Her day began at 6 a.m., and by 8 a.m., she was in her first class of the day. Typically, Rebecca would have a ballet class for two hours, an hour pointe class, a lunch break, another ballet class, a rehearsal, and an elective class before heading back the the dorms for the night. The classes were very large; large enough to require students to wear name tags so teachers could use names when giving corrections. After participating in the program, Rebecca finished the summer by performing in La Bayadere along with the other students.

“[Performing under the Miami City Ballet’s name] was a little bit stressful because I didn’t want to disappoint,” Rebecca said. “But it was also nice to see how much I improved at the school overall.”

Between the long days and stressful rehearsals, Rebecca was in close contact with a lot of the other students participating in the summer intensive. When spending so much time with people who shared an interest with her, Rebecca made lasting friendships. However, situations could quickly become difficult, especially since during the day, the new comrades spent their time competing with each other for attention.

“Some girls were catty and competitive,” Rebecca said. “The people I was friends with were able to be competitive in class, and when you went home to the dorms, you could just be friends and leave everything at the studio.”

Although she worked on her technique in Miami, Rebecca works on her ballet skills in-state as well. Her teacher, David Brasiak, trains her for a majority of the year. He pushed Rebecca towards the Miami City Ballet by expressing his belief in her ability to get into the program and encouraged her to audition.

“It’s a very lovely school and the style of dancing is the same style that I teach her back home,” Brasiak said. “It definitely is one of the hardest schools to get into; however, I knew she would be comfortable and enjoy it there.”

Rebecca describes her experience at the Miami City Ballet in a positive light. Even though classes were difficult and competition was fierce, she would “love to do it again next summer.” She is grateful that Brasiak pushed her towards the program, and it opened her eyes to the possible paths she could take.

“My main goal for Rebecca going to Miami was to get her excited about what the future could hold,” Brasiak said. “[I wanted] to make her realize how amazing other dancers out there are, and to light a fire in her to make her work even harder. I am happy to say that all those things were accomplished.”

Rebecca and Brasiak have grown closer as Rebecca has become more serious about a career in ballet. Before her classes, he may ask about her day or help her stretch. Brasiak also knows about all the important people and events in Rebecca’s life, and their bond is continuing to strengthen as her career begins to take off.

Rebecca spends a majority of her time dancing, and this isn’t uncommon for someone heading in the direction of becoming a professional dancer. Generally speaking, dancers who are accepted into Miami’s program practice for four to five hours each day for a minimum of six days a week, and Rebecca’s schedule isn’t any less hectic. For five days of the week, she leaves school around 1:35 p.m. to take ballet classes, arriving home between 7-9 p.m. to begin her homework. However, Rebecca also practices for an extra day on the weekend, totaling to six days of practice per week.

In order to balance her crazy schedule, Rebecca has had to make some serious sacrifices. Her social life and educational career both cede time and participation to allow her to dance. From an educational standpoint, Rebecca takes World History online, managing her work on her own time.

Another sacrifice Rebecca made for her ballet career was the FHC Dance Team. While she was on the team her freshman and sophomore year, she decided to step back this year in order to focus entirely on ballet.

“Her decision [to step back from dance team] has made her more committed towards her studio and Youth Ballet, instead of balancing those out with the dance team,” said former teammate, junior Rylee Hrnyak.

The social sacrifices are also apparent in Rebecca’s situation. With only one day of the week not occupied by dance, there isn’t enough time to partake in all the activities an average teenager may want to.

“I have to be selective of what I want to do,” Rebecca said. “I have to prioritize.”

Rebecca’s prioritizing is key, especially during this period of her life. Along with her technique classes, she is performing in the West Michigan’s Youth Ballet’s interpretation of The Nutcracker. Rebecca will be dancing the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy.

Rebecca has always loved The Nutcracker, mainly because she has been participating in it for so long. She started in smaller “little kid” roles, such as the mouse, but as she has gotten older and her technique has been perfected, she has been able to move up the ladder into major roles, such as the Sugar Plum.

Although Rebecca’s dancing career is rapidly becoming more intense, she is currently unsure if she will go into ballet professionally. While collegiate-level and professional dancing are both possibilities that are being considered by Rebecca, her decision has yet to be finalized.

Even considering professional or collegiate level dancing is impressive for Rebecca, especially since her dancing started out as a hobby.

“I started dance mainly because I didn’t like sports,” Rebecca said. “It took off about six years ago, when I went on pointe, and I never thought I would give up so much for ballet, but once I got into it, I think this is where I pictured I would be.”  

Rebecca has made many sacrifices for her dancing career, but she “wouldn’t change a thing” and is overall pleased with her progress.

“Going [to Miami City Ballet] made me realize it’s a lot of work and everyone is really good, but [a professional dancing career] could be a possibility,” Rebecca said.