For many little girls, when they close their eyes and dream of what they hope to become, images of dancing on the stage appear, floating on the air as they jete across the stage.
Nine-year-old Katelyn Valtos has those dreams as well, only hers are becoming a reality thanks to her hard work and dedication and an amazing gift for dance.
Valtos has been selected to participate in the Joffrey Ballet Summer Intensive Program in Athens, Georgia.
Since its founding in 1953 by Robert Joffrey, the ballet company is considered to be one of the premier dance theaters and ballet programs in North America, and the world.
“Katelyn has a light inside her that shines in everything she does,” said Anna Crumley, owner of Studio A Dance Conservatory and Valtos’ ballet instructor. “She is an exceptional dancer, who is extremely hard-working and disciplined.
“The gift she has for dance, the rest of us can see but to watch her as she dances is a pure joy,” Crumley added. “As a teacher you want to be a part of that joy and help her develop.”
For Crumley, Valtos’ selection marks the completion of a circle.
“I was trained by a teacher who was hand-chosen when she was 12 by Mr. Joffrey to dance in his troupe,” Crumley said. “To have a student of mine selected to perform in a Joffrey program has brought me full circle.”
It was Crumley who suggested Valtos audition for the summer program, which selects 100 students each year between the ages of 9 and 25 to participate.
Almost from the time she began to walk, Valtos has been involved in dance.
“Kate started a tumbling/dance class when she was less than 2,” Melissa Valtos, Katelyn’s mother, said. “Josh (Dr. Joshua Valtos, Katelyn’s father) and I were blown away by how much she loved the time she spent at the class.
“She became a different daughter there,” Melissa Valtos added. “I truly believe that without her dance she wouldn’t be her; it is such a part of who she is.”
Valtos said that as parents both she and her husband hope the summer program is just the beginning of their daughter’s professional dance experience.
“Katelyn is a dreamer and dance is her passion,” Valtos said. “As a parent you want to provide every opportunity you can to help fulfill those dreams and see your children succeed and be happy.”
As one of the youngest dancers selected for the program, Valtos auditioned in a live performance for the Joffrey in Kansas City in early March.
After being notified of her selection, the family decided the Athens site would be the best fit for Katelyn.
“Originally the whole family, Josh and our three sons, Joshua, Jakob and Johnathan, and Katelyn and I were going to all go to Athens,” Melissa Valtos said. “We realized though that that may be a little chaotic so my mother is coming to be with Katelyn and me and the boys are staying at home with Josh.
“I know her father hates that he won’t be there because he feels very protective of her,” she added. “We wish Anna could go as well but she has classes with her students throughout the summer and it just isn’t possible.”
Valtos added that her daughter looks up to “Miss Anna,” as Katelyn calls her, commenting that she trusts Anna and goes to her for comfort especially when she has had a difficult day in practice.
Although her father will not be there to see her when she performs at the summer program, Katelyn plans to share a special moment with her father at Studio A’s recital in May.
“We are all going to dance with our daddy’s at the recital in May for our daddy-daughter dance,” Katelyn said. “It’s a tribute to veterans this year.”
Josh Valtos served 11 years in the Air Force, joining the military after the attacks Sept. 11, 2001.
Valtos, who said she loves to read, is home-schooled and studies a traditional curriculum as well as piano and violin.
The flexibility in her schedule allows her to have the opportunity to study more frequently with Crumley.
“I have to work really hard when I practice,” Katelyn Valtos said. “But it is so much fun.
“I get a feeling inside when I dance; it’s a freedom,” she added. “I think I am free from all others in the world, and I feel like I am flying and floating when I dance.”
For Valtos’ audition to Joffrey, Crumley chose the song “When Your Feet Don’t Touch the Ground,” which seems to be the perfect allegory for the tiny ballerina.
“There are times when you meet certain people, dancers, and you just know,” Crumley said. “You feel the same emotions and share the same thoughts.
“When you dance it is a connection of body, mind and spirit and you are connected as one; you become one with it,” Crumley said. “The Lord picked Katelyn out for this and she has the ability to achieve greatness through her gift.”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484