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The Pitch

The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

Spinning into stardom: meet dance prodigy Ella Berton

Ella+Berton+performs+the+Gamzatti+variation+from+%E2%80%9CLa+Bayad%C3%A8re%E2%80%9D+Ballet.+Berton+has+been+recognized+for+her+skills+by+the+American+Ballet+Theatre%2C+one+of+the+leading+ballet+companies+in+the+world.
Photo Courtesy of Amy Berton
Ella Berton performs the Gamzatti variation from “La Bayadère” Ballet. Berton has been recognized for her skills by the American Ballet Theatre, one of the leading ballet companies in the world.

For most students involved in extracurriculars, activities and sports, these commitments are typically completed after the school day ends. However, dance is an exception to this standard. Sophomore Ella Berton is a dancer at CityDance School & Conservatory focusing in ballet and contemporary dance, where she dedicates half her day to school and the latter half to dance. She began her career early on, initially inspired by a close friend, but soon her fun childhood past time became her identity.

“I started dancing when I was four. I think I quickly realized how powerful it was. It’s a way to express yourself that you can’t do with talking,” Berton said.

Ballet, known for its rigorous technique, must be practiced daily. For this reason, Berton chose to attend an online school program.

“It’s all about self-motivation and holding yourself to deadlines, which is hard when you have a full dance schedule. I decided it was best to [switch to] attend school in-person [after trying online], where I have an abbreviated schedule. It’s still stressful and much more physically exhausting, but the social aspect is nice,” Berton said.

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Attending WJ in-person means that Berton has to have a precisely-timed schedule.

“I finish my school day at 12:50 p.m. and then have to rush to CityDance Conservatory, where class starts at 1 p.m. I end up changing and getting dressed in the car. Practice continues into the evening, sometimes lasting until 9pm, which doesn’t leave much time for homework,” Berton said.

Berton’s family has been extremely supportive of her dedication to ballet and have done their best to give her the best possible path for her training, while trying to help her keep her life as balanced as possible.

People told me that a path in classical ballet means giving up your childhood, and while it’s true, we really work hard to build in time for her to see friends and come to school activities.

— Amy Berton, Ella's mother

Others in Berton’s life also notice her sheer determination and talent.

“Ella’s the sweetest. I’ve gotten to know her over the past year and I notice that she has this kind of cool, quiet confidence. She is very open about her love for dance and how much work it is. That type of confidence comes from real dedication and talent,” sophomore Elli Karistinou said.

However, her journey has not been without obstacles.

“I had a condition called Os Trigonum Syndrome, which is when you have an extra bone in the back of your foot. It was getting aggravated because of the dance. I had days where I would be in the middle of a routine and my foot would literally get stuck. I ended up deciding to get the bones surgically removed. I wasn’t able to walk, much less dance. I had to go to physical therapy everyday for a year,” Berton said.

Despite setbacks, Berton’s upbeat attitude and intrinsic motivation has kept her strong.

“She’s got so much resilience. In the ballet industry, there’s constant scrutiny. Perfection is demanded. Having the mental strength to keep pushing forwards and working towards a goal, even though nothing is assured, is a superpower. There’s no instant gratification. It’s sheer grit,” Berton’s mom said.

Representation is often overlooked in ballet. Berton, who is part Latina, realizes the value of seeing others who are representing minorities. Knowing that she could inspire younger dancers is a big driving factor that motivates her to continue working hard.

Already, Berton’s journey has been extremely successful with opportunities to dance at the Kennedy Center, involvement in guest artist projects, competing at national competitions like YAGP and being selected by the American Ballet Theatre school as a National Training Scholar.

“Dance has the power to touch lives. Looking to the future, I hope to be able to keep doing what I love. My dream is to dance professionally for the American Ballet Theatre,” Berton said.

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Geetanjali Raju
Geetanjali Raju, Online News Editor
Senior Geetanjali Raju is excited to participate in her first year with the pitch as a Online News Editor. In her free time, Geetanjali being active, and going out with friends.
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