The idea of attending college is simultaneously terrifying and exciting. In college, there are opportunities to expand your horizons and make new friends. However, with new beginnings also come goodbyes.
Four friends who will soon face those farewells are Isabella Baeumler, a senior at Tapestry Charter School; Bethany Kellner, a senior at Nardin Academy; Madison Rutherford, a 2013 graduate of Akron Central High School; and Brigette Voisinet, a senior at Mount. St. Mary Academy. These girls share no ordinary friendship. The foursome has been dancing together for the past seven years, and between them have 62 years of dance experience. They normally dance 20 hours a week, but leading up to a show they may dance as much as 35 hours a week.
The friends receive ballet training at the Royal Academy of Ballet and Dance (RAB), which also is the home of the Greater Buffalo Youth Ballet (GBYB). GBYB’s production this year is “Coppélia” – a bittersweet performance for each of the girls. Isabella, Bethany, Madison and Brigette have been members of GBYB since they each came to the studio and were old enough to perform in the ballets. For them, dancing is more than a hobby, it is a passion. For some, it will become their career path.
Isabella has been dancing at the RAB for 15 years, and has been a member of GBYB for 13 years. While Isabella has loved dance from the start, she did not become serious about her ballet training until age 10.
Throughout Isabella’s dance career, she has had the opportunity to perform numerous lead roles in GBYB productions, and attend summer dance intensives in Georgia and North Carolina. Isabella has plans to study dance in college in the fall.
In addition to the SAT exam and high school transcripts, dancers must audition for acceptance into a college dance program.
Isabella says she is ecstatic about her acceptance into the California Institute of Arts in Valencia, Calif.; New World School of the Arts in Miami and Adelphi University in Long Island.
Isabella said being accepted into these schools has been one of the most rewarding parts of her dance career.
This year, in “Coppélia,” Isabella has the roles of Lead Mazurka, Friend of Swanilda and Lead Prayer. Isabella looks forward to the challenge of these roles.
“I love performing and all the experience I gain from it,” she said.
Madison has been dancing for 16 years, and has taken ballet classes for 14 years.
“I became serious at age 11, when I started at the RAB and began performing with GBYB,” Madison said.
After graduating from high school in 2013, Madison took a year off from school to continue her dance education. However, this year Madison plans to attend the University at Buffalo and study dance and physical therapy.
“I’m very excited about possibly finding a job in the dance field, because then I’ll be able to support myself doing what I love,” Madison said.
While at the RAB and GBYB, Madison has performed lead roles, and also has attended various summer dance intensives. This year, Madison will be performing in “Coppélia” as a Friend of Swanilda.
Performing “is the most rewarding and satisfying feeling on earth,” Madison said.
Brigette has been dancing at the RAB for 15 years, and has been a member of GBYB for 13 years. She said she loves how GBYB affords her many opportunities that most students don’t experience.
“The performances have allowed me to dance lead roles, as well as dance alongside professionals,” Brigette said.
She has been at the RAB for the same amount of time as Isabella, and the two girls have grown up together.
After high school, Brigette does not plan to study dance at a college level. Instead, she plans to study engineering, but she said she “will continue to dance throughout college and life.”
Even though Brigette’s final performance with GBYB will be sad, she is elated that “Coppélia” is this year’s ballet.
“I have always looked forward to the shows and I wish that I could continue to be in them,” she said. “I love ‘Coppélia,’ and it is a great ballet as well as a comedy.”
Brigette is performing as a Friend of Swanilda.
Bethany began dancing 16 years ago. Bethany also dances at David DeMarie Dance Studio in Buffalo, but began taking ballet at the RAB in 2005, when she joined GBYB.
Bethany plans to study dance in college next year:
“I am so excited to be a member of the class of 2018 at SUNY Purchase College as a member of the BFA dance conservatory,” she said. “I am so honored to be accepted into such a highly accredited program and cannot wait to spend the next four years there.”
After college, Bethany dreams of joining a contemporary ballet company, such as Complexions Contemporary Ballet Company in New York City.
Bethany is closing her time with GBYB performing the roles of Friend of Swanilda and Dawn. She also will be sharing the stage with her older sister Mandy for the last time before she graduates.
Bethany said she really enjoys the school-time performances, because the kids are so enthusiastic.
“You can tell they love to watch,” she said.
This year’s production of “Coppélia” is bittersweet for the girls.
“It’s hard to imagine myself dancing with other people,” Madison said.
Throughout their time at the RAB, the girls have bonded over the ballets and have shared countless sleepovers before weekend rehearsals or class.
“It’s the best feeling getting to share my passion with [people] who understand and love dancing as much as I do,” Bethany said. “Through good and bad, the encouragement and inspiration from my best friends helped mold me into the dancer and person I am happy to be.”
Isabella, Madison, Bethany and Brigette have nothing but positive things to say when asked what it has been like to dance with their best friends. Affectionately, the group of friends at the RAB is called “the fremily.”
“Fremily means friend family. It’s wonderful that all of us are so tight-knit,” Isabella said.
Although the girls are taking separate paths next year, “Coppélia” will not be a final farewell.
“[We] have become lifelong friends,” Brigette said.
Ultimately, the girls said they are eternally grateful to their ballet teacher and mentor, Elizabeth DiStasio-Waddell, or “Ms. Beth,” and the art form that has brought them all together.
“My friends from the RAB are honestly my sisters,” Bethany said. “I don’t know what I will do without them next year.”
The Greater Buffalo Youth Ballet’s production of “Coppélia” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the UB Center for the Arts Mainstage Theater, Amherst. Tickets, available at the UB box office, are $23 for adults, and $19.50 for children 12 and under and senior citizens.
Tracy Werick is a junior at City Honors.