Student Spotlight: Caroline Hamilton

Caroline Hamilton, long-time student at the Claire School of Dance, has been accepted into the The Rock’s year-round program. The Rock, a ballet conservatory in Philadelphia, is perhaps best known for training Michaela DePrince, an award winning contestant of the Youth America Grand Prix in 2011 and subject of First Position, a documentary on the Grand Prix competition.

Caroline studied at the Claire School of Dance for ten years, starting when she was four years old. Says Caroline, “I started dance because I wanted to be a ballerina. I enjoyed my classes. I had fun and teachers who were very nice. Then (at age 12) I went to my first Houston Ballet audition. It was an eye opener. I realized that not all students have the happy experience I had. That audition also made me realize how much work I had to do. It helped me find a ‘this is what I’m going to do’ focus.”

After two more years at the Claire School of Dance, Caroline spent an intense year at Houston’s Movement Lab, then began applying to schools outside Houston. “My past CSD teacher Amaris Sharatt gave me a list of schools to apply to, places that would be interested in me, a tall dancer.” Accepted into summer intensives at Alvin Ailey, ABT, and The Rock, Caroline made her decision based on several points. “I got a great family vibe from the Rock”, says Caroline. “They also give hands-on corrections, something I learned to appreciate about the Claire School of Dance. The teachers here (at CSD) want you to “get it” and they will work with you until you do.”

“I took my preparation for granted. My teachers at CSD went slow and made sure I learned to do things correctly. Miss Patty used to bring an anatomy book to class, to show us why we needed to do things a certain way.” Caroline mother, Martha Meyers, interjects “It’s one of the things about the Claire School of Dance that has always been important to me, that training here is appropriate to each student’s physical development. Caroline has never been seriously injured and the one time she had a minor sprained ankle, her teachers never forced her to “work through it.” Instead, they carefully rehabbed the ankle before allowing her to take class normally.”

Meyers continues, “It’s one of the things that kept me coming to the Claire School of Dance – all the teachers are such high calibre and they’re so amazing (in their commitment to the girls). They’ve gone to fit pointe shoes. They’ve taught the girls how to sew their ribbons. They’ve gone to auditions with the girls.”

Meyers didn’t start out with the idea that Caroline would become a professional dancer. “I wanted her to do something athletic,” she said. “What has been important to me, in addition to Caroline’s enjoyment, is that studying dance at CSD has taught Caroline how to work. That it’s not enough to just do a movement. You have to do it correctly and you have to do it correctly 4,000 times. It’s also taught her resilience. This is a hard industry. You’re going to get rejected a lot. It’s hard. There have been a lot of tears. You just have to keep trying.”

One of the things that Caroline treasures most about her time at the Claire School of Dance is the relationship between younger dancers and older ones. “I remember how I looked up to the older dancers and how open they were to us younger ones. I asked one of the older dancers to tell me about pointe shoes and then several years later I was the one telling a younger dancer about them. It’s a circle.”

Says Meyers, “My experience was that the older girls were so kind to the younger ones. That’s a culture that is carried on. There is a history of kindness of older students to younger ones that I think is special.”

Caroline offers a word of encouragement to younger dancers. “Definitely go for it. You’ll get great training at the Claire School. Take it seriously. You should make the most of this great opportunity.” She goes on, “One of the things I’ve learned as I’ve gone to class at other schools is that I’ve received great training. I’ve been blessed.”

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