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Ballet Bound

May 10, 2000|JUDY SILBER

Getting a spot in the exclusive summer training programs offered by the American Ballet Theater is an honor for any young dancer. Over 4,000 students audition for 407 spots in four programs across the country.

But for Daniel Benavides, 17, who will attend the program in Tuscaloosa, Ala., just auditioning was exciting.

Most dancers begin training at an early age, taking years to develop the required flexibility, skill and strength.

Benavides didn't begin his ballet training until a year ago.

The junior in high school fell into ballet almost accidentally, joining a dance group at Anaheim High School requiring participation in a program called Step Up! at the Anaheim Ballet on Lincoln Avenue.

Geared toward students who couldn't otherwise afford the beginning ballet and hip-hop classes, Step Up! helped Benavides realize his passion for ballet. His teachers recognized his dedication and talent and Benavides quickly made the transition into more advanced classes. A few months later, he participated in his first performance and auditioned for ABT's summer program.

Benavides has improved quickly through hard work and determination, said Anaheim Ballet artistic director Larry Rosenberg. "He's gone from where even a beginning class was challenging. . . . He's now at a point where ABT says he can get in a career track line," Rosenberg said.

The experience of training with the prestigious ABT of New York City is one Benavides never expected, but it's one he can't pass up.

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