A! Magazine for the Arts

Ashley Norman prepares for a performance. For ballet classes, she commutes from Mountain City, Tenn. to Bristol, a two-and-a-half-hour drive round-trip.

Ashley Norman prepares for a performance. For ballet classes, she commutes from Mountain City, Tenn. to Bristol, a two-and-a-half-hour drive round-trip.

Ballet Student Answers 'A Call to Dance'

June 25, 2008

Ashley Norman is the daughter of the Rev. Jim and Samantha Norman in Mountain City, Tenn. A 14-year-old ninth-grade home-schooler, she has studied dance for nine years at the Ballet Arts Academy in Bristol, Va.

In July, Ashley will go to Washington, DC, to study for three weeks with the Kirov Academy of Ballet. She recently took time from dance class to chat with A! Magazine for the Arts.

Why ballet?

We had decided to get me into a sport, but the schools wouldn't let us in. So my mom and dad decided, "Let's go and check out ballet"...and we looked [other places] but they didn't have the kind of (classical) ballet we wanted. Then we found Ballet Arts Academy.

Why have you stuck with it?

I've felt in my heart that the Lord had called me to do this, so I needed to fulfill that call. I'm hoping to become a professional ballerina, travel internationally, and hopefully be able to get into places missionaries can't get into. That way I can share the gospel in those places through dancing.

Are there Christian ballet troupes?

Yes, there's one in Mississippi called Ballet Magnificat. They travel internationally and go to competitions, and while they're there, they do biblical plays for ballet, like the birth of Christ [or] about Joseph and the coat of many colors. They were in Johnson City not too long ago, and they did the story of Corrie ten Boom.

When did you realize you had "a call" to dance?

It took a couple of years. I used to think that ballet was just something for fun. And then for Nutcracker, when I was Clara, we had a guest dancer and he said I needed to get professional training because I could very easily become a professional dancer. And so we realized that was the door opening from God. That was really cool.

Have you studied other places?

I have been to the Nutmeg Conservatory of Arts in Connecticut and I just got accepted to the Kirov in Washington. It's one of the top three ballet schools. We're going to stay in a missionary home there, because the cost of a hotel would be too much. My mom's going to go for the first two weeks, then the rest of my family's coming up for the last week, sort of like a vacation.

What is your daily schedule?

Well, Monday I'm the busiest. I get up at 6 o'clock in the morning and I go to school until 12. I have an hour to eat, and then I have to get ready for ballet and come and take two extra classes on Mondays. It takes an hour and 15 minutes to get [to Bristol] from Mountain City. By the time I get home, we eat dinner and it's time for us to go to sleep because we have to get up early in the morning.

And performances?

Performances are hard. Rehearsals last about four hours, and we're all rushing, and we have such a short amount of time between acts and dances. Sometimes it gets a little complicated, and we get behind and we're here until 10:30 or 11:00 [at night]. Then there's the drive home.

Who drives you to ballet classes?

My dad does, because he has to do hospital visits and his other stuff. Sometimes he goes to Java J's and sits at his computer and writes his sermon.

Why do you like ballet as a form of expression?

Because I can express what I'm feeling, and I can do it through movements and different steps. Usually by the end of ballet class, I feel much better. I can express what I feel, and it's all gone away. It calms my spirit.

What is the spiritual connection?

Because I'm doing this for the Lord, it's a form of sign language to the Lord, because I'm dancing for Him. That's how I see it.

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Dottie Havlik is President of the Board of Directors of Arts Alliance Mountain Empire (AAME) and chair of AAME's Arts for Youth Committee.