Reaching for the top

Natalie Krakirian is pirouetting her way toward her goal of becoming a professional ballet dancer.

This summer, the 16-year-old Burbank resident attended the Houston Ballet Academy Summer Intensive and the Gelsey Kirkland Summer Intensive in New York City. She will begin at the Houston Ballet II in the fall.

This is what she lives for, said her mother, Nina Krakirian.

"She enjoys every minute of it," Krakirian said. "She signed a contract with Houston Ballet II a month ago. It's not the professional company, but she will be able to perform throughout the area and will be in the Houston Ballet's performances."

Natalie will be living in Houston for two years as part of the program and will complete her senior year of high school online, her mother said.

"I'm very happy and really excited," Krakirian said. "I've met the key players — the artistic and administrative staffs, and I really feel it's a great place for Natalie."

Natalie will have to apply self-discipline when it comes to keeping up with her studies, but her mom said Natalie has been doing well in a home school for the last two years, Krakirian said.

Ballet has always been a part of Natalie's life.

"I love it. I really can put my all into it, and since I've been doing it since I was 3, I can't imagine my life without it," Natalie said.

It's not always easy, she said.

"There are days where I really question whether I'm doing the right thing, but as long as you keep pushing, it turns out for the better, and you find out what you were doing wrong," Natalie said.

Ballet has also helped her with discipline in other parts of her life.

"You have to have a very high level of focus because you don't have enough time in the day to goof around," she said. "You dance, come home and do homework, and the process starts all over again the next day."

Natalie hopes her training now will lead to a career in ballet.

"I know how hard it is to get into a company," she said. "I'm not focusing on a specific company, but just focus on dancing."

Natalie credits Lisa Sutton, founder and artistic director of the Burbank School of the Ballet, with her success. Natalie has been Sutton's student she was 3.

"She has basically trained me my entire life," Natalie said. "She's been amazing because she takes the time to work individually with every student, giving us attention, and we understand what she is correcting you on."

Earlier this year, Natalie was one of the top 12 senior finalists in the Youth America Grand Prix in New York and was the only one to receive the Sarah Chapin Langham Outstanding Contemporary Dance Award. She also received a $5,000 scholarship in the Los Angeles Music Center's Spotlight Award.

In June, she made it to round two of the USA International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Miss.

"Natalie is a truly a gifted dancer, but you don't learn dance through osmosis," Sutton said. "She has given herself — mind, body and soul — to the education that I have offered her, and to what the dance world has yet to unfold before her. She wants to become a ballerina, and I think that in her near future, she will become one."

Summer intensives are not new to Natalie. Last summer, she attended the Washington Ballet School summer intensive in Washington, D.C., and for six years she attended the American Academy of Ballet summer intensive in New York City.

Mignon Furman, director of the American Academy of Ballet said Natalie originally came in to the junior program held at Vassar College when she was 9.

"It was obvious then she had great commitment and focus as only a little girl," Furman said. "And her teacher has trained her beautifully."

To make it in the professional ballet world, Furman said, Natalie faces great competition, but over the eight years she's watched her, Natalie has proven she has the ability.

"If they want to make it, they have to be really good," Furman said. "And in ballet, to really make it, so much depends on being in the right place at the right time — but she's got the talent. One hopes she's chosen the right place to go and they will nurture her."

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