Issaquah Middle School student to study at Bolshoi Ballet Academy
October 16, 2012
Viktoria Titova knew from the start.
Titova, the artistic director of the Emerald Ballet Theatre in Bellevue, knew she had someone special in Chloe Heninger, a 6-year-old from Preston.
The year was 2005, and Titova had been Chloe’s teacher for less than a year. In the middle of a lesson, the CD player quit.
The music would not start.
Chloe could not wait to.
“I was struggling with the music,” Titova remembers. “She was 6 years old. The dancers are usually like, ‘OK, let me know when you are ready.’”
Not Chloe. She did not move from her pose. She did not even blink, Titova said, until the music was ready.
“That really let me know she really wants to do it and that she really wants to work hard and that’s what’s really in her heart: She’s a ballet dancer,” Titova said.
Off to the Bolshoi
Titova’s words leaped toward becoming true this month, as 13-year-old Chloe joins a training program with the world-famous Bolshoi Ballet Academy, in Moscow.
She will spend an entire school year in Moscow. Her mother traveled with her Oct. 11. After about a week, Kristin Bennett will return stateside, leaving her daughter in the Russian capital.
“I’m really excited,” Chloe said by phone the night before she left, “but I’m really going to miss my family and my friends.”
Chloe is one of 100 international students participating in the program, ages 10-21. The ratio stands at about 10 students per year of age, Bennett said.
She was chosen after she participated in a summer intensive camp the Bolshoi held in Connecticut.
“At the end of the camp, they got to choose which students they wanted to invite to go to Russia,” Chloe said, later adding, “I’m excited to learn from all of the teachers and also be able to learn from the students there.”
Six days a week
She does not speak Russian, so that scares her a bit, since that’s what her teachers will speak, she added. She will study Russian while living there, as well as take online classes with Brigham Young University to keep up with school.
Titova said Chloe will study ballet at least three hours a day, six days a week, with Sundays off.
Those who have watched from the start said they believe Chloe is up to the many challenges ahead.
“She’s one of the hardest workers that I have ever seen,” Titova said. “She works very hard toward her goals, and always works with her heart and with lots of love to do any dance step that a choreographer or dance teacher will give her. She will work until she does it right.”
A lifelong dream
Dancing for the Bolshoi has been a lifelong dream of Chloe’s, Bennett said. The stories she wrote, the games she played, all had a ballet theme. As she grew up, she passed up parties and socializing in order to go to dance class.
“I like that ballet is challenging and I like that you can express yourself through the emotional side of it,” Chloe said. “I like the artistry part where you can pretend to be a character and just act.”
She then added, “I also really like being able to improve your technique, because when you can master a step, it feels really good.”
‘An amazing turner’
Titova said Chloe has indeed mastered steps. One, called the Fouette, is a whip-fast turn with a raised leg. Students are expected to do 32. Titova said Chloe can do 50.
“She’s an amazing turner,” Titova said.
Now she turns one more time, east, to Moscow and a dream she has held for seven years.
“If it had been any other school, I would have said no, wait until you’re older. But this is absolutely her dream,” Titova added.
Bennett admitted to feeling apprehensive about leaving her daughter behind.
“It’s super scary to send your daughter around the world,” she said.
Furthermore, the training is for nine months, but the top dancers of the training have a chance to continue indefinitely with the Bolshoi, Titova said.
“We don’t know how long Miss Chloe will be there,” she said.
Bennett said that’s a discussion for next spring. For now, Bennett said Chloe will come home for two weeks in January during the Russian Christmas, before returning to Moscow.
She said she hopes all of the sacrifices are worthwhile. Chloe, Bennett said, has a good shot at becoming a professional dancer.
The family is excited, but also really sad to let her go.
Soul of a dancer
The trip is hard on the heart and the budget.
Preston-based Talking Rain is helping with some of the costs of the trip, said Vivian Page, an employee of the company whose daughter is a ballet classmate of Chloe’s.
“I have been around ballet a long time, so I know what it takes to get to that level,” Page said of Chloe. “She’s just a gorgeous dancer, but more than anything, she’s an incredible hard worker.”
Talking Rain will provide sweatshirts and other clothes for Chloe in addition to the money, Page said.
The costs are considerable, so the family continues to seek sponsorships for Chloe, her father Wade Heninger wrote in an email.
“The tuition is about $16,000, there’s a lot of travel fees, tons of documents that need to be translated into Russian, and point shoes are $2,000 a year alone,” Bennett said. “The Bolshoi, they don’t pay for any part of the international students’ stay. No school money or anything.”
With Chloe leaving, Bennett has had to endure not just her own apprehensions but her family’s.
Chloe’s youngest brother Liam, 7, kept asking why, Bennett said.
“‘Why are you letting Chloe go?’” she said he asked. “Why don’t you make her stay home?”’
The answer is in everything that Chloe does and is, from her blistered feet on up.
“I have always felt like she had the heart and soul of a dancer,” Bennett said. “Her little soul is just about dancing.”
“She’s my little dancer that grew up, and now she has wings to fly,” she said. “I feel really proud of her.”