With Magic Toyshop this weekend, we asked our lead Natalie Hills to share about her dance experiences at Starship and beyond!
“I started dancing at Starship when I was three years old, and dance has been a huge part of my life ever since. It has provided me not only with joy that stems from the art itself but also with opportunities that the dance world as a whole has opened to me. I certainly love to dance — to move, to emote, to express — but I am also so grateful for the chances to connect and to travel that dance has given me. Just getting to do community outreach with Starship through workshops for children and performances at senior centers has been wonderful, and my summers of dancing have turned into some of the best experiences of my life.
This past summer, I was given a true opportunity of a lifetime to travel to Moscow, Russia for six weeks to dance at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy and study Russian language and culture. When I heard about the program last February, it sounded too good to be true. A program combining dance, academics, and travel that was completely free. I knew I had to apply, and I am so glad I did because it ended up being even better than I imagined.
In Moscow, current and former dancers from the Bolshoi company taught our ballet, character, variations, and stretching classes entirely in Russian, and we spent four hours a day in the Russian classroom studying the language. In the evenings, we got to practice our Russian during our many cultural outings. Twice a week, we went out to restaurants where we tried some interesting Russian dishes like cow tongue and pure fat spread on bread, as well as some of the country’s delicious specialties like borsch and vinaigrette salad. We also saw Eugine Onegin and several ballets and visited many museums, ranging from one showcasing Soviet era video games to one with 18th century European paintings. Some nights, we simply shopped for souvenirs or found ourselves at one of Moscow’s beautiful churches, streets, parks, or squares. Additionally, the State Department and the Russian American Foundation, both backing the program, set up weekly meetings for us with a variety of people from Russian fashion designers to American Foreign Service officers, and we were even able to visit the American Embassy. Finally, at the end of the week, we headed to host families, and I was lucky enough to have two wonderful families welcome me into their homes and lives. And on top of all of this, I developed yet another family that consisted of the fourteen other students on the trip and our wonderful chaperone, Naome.
I truly can’t describe the trip as anything other than the experience of a lifetime, and I have dance to thank for bringing me the opportunity. Although I always knew the personal joys of dance were enough for me, my summer has made me even more aware of the possibility that dance, and in fact art in general, holds and of its ability to connect people across boundaries, even one as strong as that between Russian and American culture.”
We are so excited for Natalie as she embarks on her adventures after she graduates from Choate Rosemary Hall in the spring. If you have seen previous Magic Toyshops, you know the joy that Natalie spreads as she navigates the choreography with grace and ease. She has grown into a lovely, responsible and kind young woman that sets a good example for the younger members of the cast. Please come watch and celebrate Natalie’s final Magic Toyshop!