It begins like any other day: wake up, get dressed, go to school. But after school, 13-year-old Alex De Herrera will gear up for an hour's drive north to the nearest dance studio, in Alamosa. Two hours of ballet lessons and another hour-long drive later, it's back to San Luis and into bed, maybe around 11 p.m.
This might sound overwhelming, for two days a week, but Alex wouldn't have it any other way. It's not just her talent in dance that drives her, but her affinity for it. At age 2 she would entertain customers in her family's coffee house.
"She would just dance around the shop," her grandmother, Meredith, explains over the phone. "So we went out and bought her a little pink tutu."
This Friday, Alex hopes to make it to the Springs to attend a master ballet class being taught at Colorado College by Caroline Diane Wilson (pictured) of the Washington Ballet. It's part of Colorado Springs Dance Theatre's Success in the Springs III weekend, which showcases dancers who grew up locally and now perform professionally around the country.
Wilson, who grew up in the Springs, is only 20. So it was just a few years ago that she was in De Herrera's position, putting in the time even when unsure of the payoff.
While living here, Wilson trained with Nancy Derby at Derby Dance & Music Arts, the Ballet Society of Colorado Springs, and the Zamuel Ballet School. At 14, while attending Air Academy High School, she was chosen to train at the National Ballet School of Canada. A year later, she moved to Germany to learn from famed dancer and choreographer John Cranko.
"It was scary," Wilson says from Washington, "but exciting." Three years in Stuttgart would prepare her for her first big break as a professional dancer, when she was invited to perform with the San Francisco Ballet Company.
"It was a real company, so you had to catch on quick," she says. "They just throw you into performances." Two years of cutting her teeth there propelled her to her current position.
Other featured dancers in Saturday's public recital include: Jennifer Aiken of the Boulder Ballet Company; Nicola Curry from American Ballet Theatre; Margaret Foy, a Denver Broncos cheerleader and adjunct professor at Pikes Peak Community College; Tara Masimer, who teaches dance in Amsterdam; and Graham Stockdale from Streb, a famous "extreme action" outfit in New York City.
In addition, CSDT also awards scholarships to young hopefuls; this year it will be awarding eight scholarships, four each in jazz and ballet. That could be De Herrera's next step.