A local ballet student, 16 year old Keliah Peterson has been invited to join the English National Ballet School in London and is looking for financial help to go there.
Peterson's journey started at age 8 when her parents enrolled her in ballet class because her uncle was dating the teacher and they wanted to get to know her better. "Little did they know that this would, over time, blossom into a strong passion for the art of ballet," she said.
When she was almost 9, her ballet teachers told her parents that they felt Peterson might be gifted with a facility for ballet, so they wanted to spend more time training her. "At the time, my baby brother was on palliative care which didn't leave a lot of time or finances for extra things, so my teachers offered me private training on scholarship," she explained.
When she attended the Youth America Grand Prix for the first time, she felt very out of her depth, she said, "but left awestruck and inspired through the master classes and watching the other dancers. This is when I first realized that I wanted to pursue a lifetime of professional ballet. Over the next few years, I fell more and more in love with ballet, and my pursuit of a career in ballet only intensified."
Peterson also said, "I've faced many challenges along the way, but I've always seen them as opportunities to learn, grow, and be creative in finding ways to continue pursuing my dream. I believe that ballet has helped me grow in my strength as a person, as well as a dancer, and given me a willingness to work hard through adversity to accomplish my goals."
After several years of YAGP master classes and spending a few summer intensives in London, she said she felt strongly that she wanted to end up training and dancing in Europe. Since the school system in the UK is different from the U.S., she chose to start high school the summer before ninth grade and used the pandemic to take extra classes in grades 9 and 10 (some through the junior college), and took classes through each summer so that she could earn her high school diploma early and be free to pursue upper education on the UK schedule. She is receiving her high school diploma from Pacific Coast Academy this month.
Peterson was invited to join the English National Ballet School in London after auditioning with hundreds of students who applied this year and being one of the 60+ women from around the world who were invited to the final audition round. Peterson was offered one of 16-20 spots to join ENB's class of 2025.
This is a three-year program, which will provide her with Elite classical ballet training that will help her pursue a future position in a ballet company, as well as earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Classical Ballet.
Peterson said, "Growing into a company like ENB would be a dream come true. I left my audition with ENB hopeful, because I got a strong sense of shared values and felt ENB could be an environment that I could grow and thrive in. Unfortunately, finances are the only thing keeping this from being an easy yes."
Peterson's dance teacher, Cassandra Infante, said Peterson has worked hard to realize her potential with every class she takes. "Physically she has the line to become a professional ballet dancer, and I can certainly vouch for the fact that Keliah has the best attitude of any young dancer I've worked with."
Infante continued, "Watching Keliah perform is like witnessing something that is not of this world. She has an indescribable quality that draws the eye, and to find that she has the determination, sweet spirit and mental toughness needed to pursue this art as a career? Well it's a rare find. She is unique. Keliah's financial situation is also unique, in a less fortunate way."
While her family supports her dancing in any way they possibly can, her little brother's rare medical condition has placed her family in a very difficult financial situation. She said, "We are so grateful for his life and the gift he is to our family, but this is why we need help. Tuition & accommodations for me to attend English National Ballet School are approximately $40,000 USD per year."
Peterson's home studio, North County Academy of Dance, runs a nonprofit organization that helps dancers pursue a ballet education. All donations given towards her ballet education can be gifted through the nonprofit and will therefore be tax deductible.
She plans on keeping all donors updated on her progress and sharing milestones along the way. For anyone who has ever come to watch her perform, she hopes that "my commitment to my technique and my passion to connect authentically to my audience has been evident. I love creating art for people to watch, to take joy in, to relate to, to escape, and to connect with."
She also hopes that any donor's investment into these next steps in her education "will be a stepping stone to my career, investing into an artist that wants to pour herself into the art of dance."
Any gifts given to North County Academy of Dance Association on Peterson's behalf will go directly to her training and will be tax deductible. Checks can be made out to: NCADA ( write- "Keliah Peterson" in the note) or can be sent via Venmo to @northcountyacademyofdance with "NCADA- Keliah Peterson" in the notes section. Checks may be mailed to: 5256 S. Mission Rd. #820, Bonsall, CA 92003. If a tax deduction is not necessary, donations can be made directly via Venmo: @Keliah-Peterson.