July 16, 2001
Woodinville Girl reaches for the stars
By Deborah Stone
Most teen-age girls are busy exploring a number of pursuits from sports to the arts, often taking on several activities at the same time. They enjoy shopping, talking about clothes and boys, listening to the latest music and engaging in other typical adolescent forms of entertainment.
Kids this age usually don't have a specific focus in their lives and if asked what type of career they see for themselves in the future, they most likely will not give a definitive answer.
It is rare, then, to encounter an adolescent with a definite goal in his/her life, willing to make sacrifices to see a dream become reality.
Meet Jennifer Dines, a unique 13-year-old girl from Woodinville, who knows exactly what she wants in her life and is set on pursuing it with determination and self-discipline as her tools.
"My daughter has always been an independent child with an inner sense of self," comments Eva Dines, Jennifer's mother. "From an early age, she just started taking care of herself and was very responsible. She has always been very strong and focused, setting high expectations for herself and then exceeding them. I would say she is a high achiever with outstanding work ethics ... Dancing seemed to give her so much pleasure and she would make up dances to perform in front of our family. It seemed important to her to be able to express herself creatively."
It was not a total surprise to Dines, then, when her daughter decided to pursue dance seriously, with the desire to make it her career.
"Jenny has been taking dance since she was four and has loved it," explains Dines. "The first time she put on a tutu, she was hooked. Over the years, she has participated in performances and competitions in various forms of dance, but it was not until last October that she made a commitment to train seriously in ballet."
In October, Jennifer's ballet teacher, Suzuko Riewe, co-owner of Turning Pointe Dance Center in Woodinville and Bothell, approached Dines and spoke to her about Jennifer.
Riewe says, "I noted her passion for dance and her ability to focus closely on what she was doing. She took correction well and was really working hard at mastering the movements and form. I approached Eva and told her what I was seeing. I basically told her that I thought Jenny had excellent potential and that she had come a long way in improving her technique. I said that I could really see her as a ballet dancer. She has a love of dance, she's disciplined, self-assured and she knows how to manage all parts of her life."
Riewe, a former dancer with American Ballet Theater and the Hong Kong Ballet, has been teaching dance for over forty years and has owned several dance studios throughout the U.S. With her extensive experience as a performer, teacher and choreographer, Riewe is able to spot true talent at an early age.
She says, "It is very apparent to me, as it is so rare. When I see it, it is like an incredible light. I get so excited!"
Jennifer's mother knew her daughter harbored a secret desire to be a dancer but had been cautious in admitting this desire openly. Jennifer concurs and adds, "I've always known I've wanted to study dance seriously, but I wasn't sure what type of dance or the steps to take to get to where I wanted to go.
"I was thrilled when Suzuko spoke to my mom and then to me. Dance is special to me. My mind is so clear whenever I dance. It's such a release for me and allows me to truly express my feelings. Ballet is really the form that matches my personality. I like the structure and the line. It's so beautiful."
The road to becoming a ballerina, however, is not an easy one. It is intensely demanding and highly competitive, fraught with possible injuries and also involves many sacrifices.
Jennifer knows she will have to deal with these factors, but she feels confident that she can handle them because her commitment is so strong.
Her parents support her decision completely, but they also worry about her ability to relax and the loss of a normal social life.
"On one hand, I think she needs to just be a kid," comments Dines. "But on the other hand, I know she's a unique girl for her age and I've come to accept this. I know she can handle this demanding career because she has an incredible internal drive and challenges stimulate her."
Giving up a normal social life is a definite sacrifice for Jennifer, and she admits to feeling displaced sometimes when she's with her peers. She says, "I sometimes have a hard time connecting with my friends because I am so focused and I know exactly what I want to do with my life. Achieving my dream is more important to me than having a social life. All I want to do is dance."
To be successful in her endeavors, Jennifer has embarked on a rigorous training schedule, involving over 20 hours a week of dance at Turning Pointe Dance Center (a combination of group and private lessons).
She recently opted to be homeschooled in order to complete her education by 16, as she hopes to enter a ballet conservatory, affiliated with a professional dance company.
According to Dines, this decision was not made lightly. She explains, "Jenny has always excelled academically in school, choosing to do more than what was asked of her. She often got impatient though, as she wanted to go at her own speed. We looked into the homeschool network for Northshore and after some consideration, we decided to try it because it combines classes at the junior high with individual study at home. So far she has done well with this situation and it frees her to do the intensive dance training she needs to prepare herself for future acceptance to a conservatory."
This summer Jennifer is attending the Ballet West Conservatory in Utah for a six-week session. When she returns, she will continue her training with Riewe focusing on more advanced pointe technique, balance work, extension and perfection of form.
"Jenny has good flexibility, strong feet, a strong body and a natural body line for dance," explains Riewe. "These are all necessary physical attributes for a ballet dancer, but she also has the mental strength that is so important to success in this profession."
Riewe goes further to add that parental support at this age is necessary, as well as a teacher who believes in his/her student. She says, "I know Jenny will succeed. I can't tell you when it will happen, but she will succeed."
Jenny and her mother feel incredibly fortunate to have such a talented teacher as Riewe, right here in Woodinville.
"Suzuko has been wonderful," comments Dines. "She has given so much of herself to Jenny, not only her knowledge and experience, but her faith in her." Jenny adds, "She and I are very much alike. Our personalities work well together and she is a great inspiration to me. She has really helped me."
For Riewe, the relationship is mutually satisfying and rewarding. She says, "Working with young talent is such a joy. It gives me such energy, such spark in my life. Having a student like Jenny is a gift and a gift like her doesn't come along very often."
"Making it" for Jennifer Dines means dancing as a prima ballerina for a well-known ballet company in New York City. She has set her sights high, but says, "In my heart I know I can make it. I will make it."