Former student brings professional ballet to hometown

By Judy Reed

When Mia Calabrese left Cedar Springs at age 12 so she could take dance lessons with a larger dance studio, she had no idea what the future would be bring. She’s now bringing that future back to her hometown.

Mia, who is now a professional ballet dancer, will dance at Cedar Springs High School in Ballet Emmanuel’s “Courage…standing strong in times of trouble” on Wednesday, February 13, at 7 p.m. The performance is sponsored by North Kent Community Church, where Mia attended church in her youth.

Mia, 18, is the daughter of Bill and Leslie Calabrese, and attended Cedar Springs Public Schools through 6th grade. She was a student with the class of 2012. She always loved to dance, and took lessons with a local dance studio here for a year, and then moved to another studio in Comstock Park, where she took both tap and ballet. She also took some summer intensive classes Grand Rapids Ballet, and was told that if she wanted to become a professional dancer, she needed to focus her studies more. So the family made the move to Hudsonville in 2006, where she was able to dance with a larger dance school and focus on her ballet. She graduated from Hudsonville High School last spring.

During her time there, Mia said she would dance five to six times a week, for five or more hours a night. She also took some other training, with Ballet Magnifica ,in Jackson, Mississippi; the Grand Rapids Ballet; and the Joffrey Ballet, in Chicago.

In the spring of 2012, she auditioned for Ballet Emmanuel, in Boulder, Colorado and was accepted. She moved there in July 2012, and is now touring with them professionally. She said the group does about 90 events a year.

“I was drawn to Ballet Emmanuel because of their love for dance and the people who live in communities that don’t get dance a lot,” she explained. “It was something I wanted to be a part of.” She also loves that Ballet Emmanuel is a professional Christian ballet company. “My faith has been a part of my life for a long time. Everything they do is God-centered. That’s a very important part of it.”

Mia noted that the company is different from most because they don’t just dance. They do all the administrative work too, such as booking events, finding host homes, etc. All concerts are offered free to the public, and donations are taken. She said that donations go to cover travel expenses, rental of studio space, and other expenses.

Mia is happy to be returning home. “I am very excited to be coming back to my hometown,” she said. “My friends and family here have not seen me dance in a very long time so I am excited for them see what I am doing now.”

She said that the company would be in Michigan for two and a half weeks, but only in the Grand Rapids area for a week. Her parents still live in Hudsonville, and she has a younger brother in high school there.

Mia had a word of advice for any young dancers out there who hope to one day dance professionally. “Try your best, apply any correction you are given, and don’t idolize dance. That’s hard for a dancer to do. Instead, remember who has given you your talent and ability, and that’s God. If you do that, you’ll be fine.”

Craig Carter, Pastor at North Kent Community, said he feels privileged to help bring Mia here. “It’s so neat to see a former student using their gifts and passion, and wanting to give back to the community. It’s encouraging to see how she can bless our community with the art of dance.”

For more information on the performance, please call Pastor Craig Carter at (616) 550-6398.


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