Fairmont Historic Anaheim Campus 4th grader Stellina A. knows that communication and expression can be conveyed in a variety of forms — especially through dance.
From a young age, Stellina has been fascinated with dancing, particularly ballet, which she enjoys because of the graceful movements. She began taking classes when she was 3 years old and became inspired by the older girls she used to watch in the classes that were held right before hers.
“It looked so beautiful, and I wanted to become that type of dancer,” Stellina said. “I would always look at them and wonder, and that motivated me to become a better dancer.”
Now 10 years old, Stellina dedicates a tremendous amount of her time and energy to improving her dancing and practicing for performances and competitions. Five days a week, she is either at Long Beach Ballet or Ling’s Dance Academy, the latter of which allows her to learn traditional Chinese styles of dance. Stellina said she enjoys adding the Chinese dance practice to her ballet studies, as it involves the use of many props and stresses the values and traditions in China.
“I get to learn a lot about the culture,” she said, “and it’s really fascinating to know how they express themselves through dance.”
While dancing takes up a large portion of Stellina’s spare time, she never lets it interfere with her academics. When her schedule is rather tight on Mondays and Tuesdays, she completes her homework assignments in the car ride on the way to dance practice, and she’s able to finish her homework at home on other days. Though both school and dancing are key components of her life, she doesn’t let them interfere with one another.
“In my life, education comes before dancing,” Stellina said. “Once I dance, I focus on dancing and nothing else. When I do academics, I focus on academics and nothing else.”
That focus has helped her accomplish many different accolades, including the “Elite Top First” award in last month’s KAR Dance Competition and gold in a recent Chinese-American Association competition. Though Stellina has also found success in many additional activities — including horseback riding, skating, art classes, chess, piano, and private Chinese classes — she knows that dancing is what she ultimately desires to pursue.
“I don’t want to stop dancing,” she said. “I love to perform on stage, and I like the applause, because it means that the audience is pleased with my dancing and that they really like it. All of that work and [physical] hardness on my body — it all pays off to see that the audience is happy.”
Stellina’s mother, Mary, said she enjoys seeing her daughter perform, even when she’s simply dancing around the living room. She said she feels that dancing truly helps her daughter express herself, a notion with which Stellina completely agrees. Though she’s not afraid of public speaking, she said it’s not something that makes her completely comfortable. Dancing, on the other hand, is an entirely different story.
“When you’re dancing, you don’t actually have to talk — you’re talking through your movements,” Stellina said. “If it’s a really slow and sad dance, your face tells it, and the audience can feel it. And if you’re really happy, you can play a really cheerful tune, and the audience can feel that you’re happy. I think that dance is a really good way to express yourself without using your voice.”