Ballerina graces the big stage

Parker teen aims for pro career

Meagan Van Deren started ballet classes at age 3. She is among the few handpicked students who attend National Ballet Academy of Denver. Courtesy photo

While her friends dropped out of ballet classes one by one as they got older, Meagan Van Deren's determination never waned.

That's precisely the reason why she graced the stage at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House Jan. 18, brimming with poise and confidence. The appearance, which included a four-minute dance solo, or variation, was the culmination of 13 years of painstaking work. But it's just the beginning.

Normally, a child who starts a sport or hobby at age 3 grows weary with time. Not Van Deren. Now 16 years old, her focus on ballet is as strong as ever, and her sights are fixed on a professional career, preferably with an esteemed company in Europe.

The Parker native is well on her way to reaching that goal. She was handpicked two years ago for an audition with the National Ballet Academy of Denver and made it. She is one of only five students who attend the prestigious school.

Training for six hours a day, six days a week seems draining, and it is, but the lack of free time and numerous injuries are worth it.

“You pretty much always have an injury going, but it's just something you go through and do physical therapy and get over it. You tough it out,” she said, adding heating and ice packs are part of her daily routine.

It's a far cry from when she started. She began as a toddler at Parker Dance Academy and hopped around the stage aimlessly at her first recital, which her parents got on film. Van Deren dabbled in tap and jazz dance and, upon deciding that ballet was the direction she wanted to go, became more serious about the craft.

Instructors took notice of her blossoming talent and unwavering focus, urging her to aim high. She has further honed her technique under the guidance of former ballet dancers from Russia.

Her second appearance on the Ellie Caulkins stage, she says, is her biggest.

Professionals from around the globe flew in and performed alongside Van Deren, the only student at her school selected for the “An Evening of Stars” show. It featured a mix of dances from different ballets, but Van Deren's was choreographed specifically for her, adding a never-before-seen element. The teen admitted beforehand that she was anxious, but prepared.

“When I'm on stage, it's going to be more about the emotional aspect of it, just feeling the movement and not thinking about anything else but that moment,” she said. “You have the stage lights, but you have to do it confidently and you have to look beautiful and like you're enjoying yourself.”

Van Deren, who attended Chaparral High School her freshman year but now does online schooling, is unsure why her love for ballet has never left. The idea that there is always room for improvement drives her. Van Deren figures she has two more years of intensive training before she can audition for European companies.

“I've never seen anything different for me,” she said. “I've always known it's what I have to do. It's what I want to do. It's what I need to do.”

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