When Tanya White enrolled her then 2-year-old daughter Cheyene White into a ballet class she thought she was just giving a toddler an opportunity to blow off some extra energy. Little did she know she was putting her daughter on a path that Cheyene is determined will one day lead to Radio City Music Hall.
The 17-year-old Turlock High senior moved a step closer to making that dream a reality with her acceptance to a Rockettes’ summer intensive program.
The program gives student dancers the opportunity to learn directly from the people who train the famed Rockette dancers. It’s a chance to breath some rarified air for the young dancers, as about 1,200 women and girls as young as 14 years audition for one of the 640 spots in the program. This is Cheyene’s second year she has been accepted.
“It’s a lot of fun and a great way to prepare for the future,” said Cheyene. “I started auditioning for it when I was 14 and when I learned last year that I had gotten wait listed for the program and then got in, I was flabbergasted.”
The program really puts the emphasis on intensive. Each term is one week and includes 80 dancers. Over the course of the week they will learn various techniques and choreographies that will be put on display in a showcase at the end of the week. The dancers are at work on their craft for about six hours each day, learning new choreography like the signature high kick and strength training.
“You learn so much, especially about the precision it takes to be a Rockette,” Cheyene said.
The next step for Cheyene is to move on to the invitational, which while not an audition for the troupe, it is a highly sought-after training ground and a program where some dancers have been offered a contract to join the Rockettes. She will audition for this program for the first time in January.
Since her first days of tottering around the ballet class, dance has become an integral part of her life. She takes classes in ballet, tap, jazz and modern dance four days a week at the Juline School of Dance in Modesto and on her off days she teaches dance or finds other classes to take. She doesn’t mind the busy schedule as long as she gets the chance to dance.
“Dancing gives me such a feeling of love, fulfillment and pure joy,” said Cheyene. When you’re out there dancing it is such a freedom. There’s nothing in the world like it.”
The opportunity to hone her craft does not come without a hefty cost. The one-week course costs the family about $6,000 when all the other expenses, like lodging are added in. Cheyene is doing her part to help raise the funds by selling some of her paintings and designing dresses for her friends. She’s also selling fireworks scrips and will be out in front of Crust and Crumb at 428 E. Main St. from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Anyone interested in helping the fundraising effort can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.