Natasha Saum settled on her bed. Above her, eight pairs of worn pink ballet slippers hung down side by side. Ballet slippers danced around her room on the wallpaper.
"Ballet is my life," she said with finality.
It's no exaggeration. Now 14, she's studied ballet at the Channel Islands Ballet Academie in Oxnard since she was 4.
She wants to become a professional ballerina, and later this month, she will have a chance to dance with the pros. She will be among 30 young local dancers who will join the Eugene Ballet Company on Tour when it performs "Cinderella" at the Oxnard Civic Auditorium.
The production is a collaboration between the Oregon company and the Channel Islands Ballet Company, which stages "Nutcracker" under the direction of artistic director Selma Lamb every year at Christmastime.
In "Cinderella," the key roles will go to the Oregon performers. Natasha and the other Ventura County dancers will round out the production as dragonflies, sprites and gnomes.
Natasha is one of eight dragonflies who flutter about with fragile, tie-dyed wings while a flurry of sprites dance around them.
"No one has a traffic jam--it all works out," she said, laughing.
Natasha's life is kind of like a traffic jam that she navigates as gracefully as she dances. A piano student for six years, she's up practicing from 6:30 to 7 a.m. Then it's off to Adolfo Camarillo High School, where she's a freshman.
She tackles homework after school. Then three nights a week plus Saturday, one of her parents drives her to Oxnard for ballet class from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Then it's on the road again for the trip back home and more homework.
In spite of the hectic schedule, she maintains a 3.8 grade-point average, and she's managed to line the shelves of her bedroom with 10 trophies from speech club competition.
"Everything comes easy for me--except math," she said confidently. She's poised, articulate, outgoing and mature. Her words rush out in a cheerful flow. She confesses to being a chronic daydreamer. But she's a perfectionist who can't stand being late. And she's constantly on the move, sometimes dancing through the house.
She has good reason to be happy. She recently auditioned for the summer ballet program with three ballet companies and already one--the Milwaukee Ballet Company--has accepted her.
"I plan to make ballet a career," she said. If not ballet, maybe something in the sciences.
Right now, she breathes ballet. She's been dancing en pointe since she was 9 and well remembers when her instructors told her and others that they were ready to graduate to toe shoes.
"We were really excited," she said. "We went out in the parking lot and screamed."
Aside from sweaty palms, Natasha said she doesn't get nervous during performances. Her first big dancing role en pointe was in "The Nutcracker" in December, where she was a snowflake.
During the last eight years, she has danced several roles in the traditional Christmas ballet, starting out as a clown, then a toy soldier and a girl in the Christmas Eve party scene.
"The girls look forward to being party girls," she said. "They love the dresses. There is one dress that's light blue with blue velvet. When that comes out of the closet, there are oohs and ahs. I wore it one year."
Ballet is a "family affair," according to Natasha's mother, Regina Saum. Nicholas Saum, 11, has studied ballet since he was 4 and performed in December in Oxnard as the prince in "The Nutcracker."
Even her father, Kenneth Saum, was recruited one year to perform as a non-dancing guest in the "Nutcracker" party scene. He has dubbed the family car the "balletmobile" because of the more than 30,000 miles a year he and his wife drive for their children's ballet practice.
His daughter is grateful for that. "It takes a lot of commitment from them," Natasha said. "They are a chauffeuring service."
Anglers 15 and younger can participate in a free Huck Finn Fishing Derby on Saturday, 7 to 10 a.m., at Rancho Simi Community Park, 1765 Royal Ave., Simi Valley. For information, call 584-4400.
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will visit the Dinosaurs Alive exhibit, 1000 Town Center Drive, Oxnard, through Sunday. Children can have their pictures taken with the famous turtles. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and $3 for children.
* WHERE AND WHEN
"Cinderella," a collaborative effort by the Channel Islands Ballet Company and the Eugene Ballet Company on Tour, will be presented at the Oxnard Civic Auditorium, 800 Hobson Way. Performances are 2 and 8 p.m. April 20 and 2 p.m. April 21. Tickets are $16, $12 and $8 with reserved seating. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster, 583-8700; the Oxnard Civic Auditorium box office, Video Tyme in Ventura, Henson's Music in Camarillo and Channel Islands Ballet Academie, 136 W. 1st St., Oxnard. For information, call 483-3744.