Teen ballerina earns entry to prestigious Boston program

Teen ballerina earns entry to prestigious Boston program

May 1st, 2012 by Casey Phillips in Life Entertainment

Candace Ricketts performs the role of Snow Queen in a Ballet Tennessee production of "The Nutcracker."

Candace Ricketts performs the role of Snow Queen...

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.


School: Home-schooled ninth-grader.

Siblings: Brothers Stephen, 11, and Samuel, 18; sister, Jennifer, 24.

Pets: Four dogs, Buddy, Ebony, Champ and Butter; one cat, Odie.

Dance styles she has studied: Ballet, modern, contemporary, jazz and hip-hop.

Favorite books: "A Tailor-Made Bride" by Karen Witemeyer and the biblical story of Esther.


Candace Ricketts, 15, has been training to dance since she was 3. This summer she was accepted into an intensive six-week dance program with the Boston Ballet. She has been a member of Ballet Tennessee's dance company for two years and played Clara and Snow Queen in two of the company's productions of "The Nutcracker."


See Candace Ricketts perform in two upcoming Ballet Tennessee shows in the Roland Hayes Concert Hall of the UTC Fine Arts Center, 752 Vine St. Call 821-2055 for ticket information.

May 18: Ballet Tennessee Repertory Program, 8 p.m.

May 19: Annual Spring Festival of Dance, 8 p.m.

While she said she feels drawn to the energy and freedom of movement in jazz dance, Candace Ricketts has always been head over pointe shoes in love with ballet.

"It is so beautiful and graceful, and your movements just flow together," the willowy 15-year-old said. "There's just something about it. It just brings me such joy. I just feel more connected to ballet."

Candace began to study dance at age 3 after her parents decided she needed to hone her natural instinct to leap and pirouette wherever she went, whether at home or in a store aisle.

Earlier this year, Candace followed the advice of her instructors at Ballet Tennessee and went to Atlanta to audition for three prestigious summer dance programs through the Boston Ballet School and New York City's Extreme Ballet and American Ballet Theatre. She was accepted to all three but opted to participate in the Boston program.

As one of the few accepted out of more than 2,400 who applied during an international audition tour, Candace will spend June 23-July 28 in Boston, where she will spend five to six hours a day training.

She said she has long dreamed of being a member of the Boston group, not only because of the skills of the dancers but also their commitment to participation in community outreach.

"I'd like to see myself dancing professionally with the Boston Ballet," she said. "I really love their dancers. I like that they go into the community and perform for the less fortunate."

Candace is the third of four children in an athletically inclined family. Parents Laura and Dennis Ricketts spent several years trying to entertain her love of dance while also encouraging her participation in sports.

However, it didn't take long to realize that Candace was just as likely to treat a softball diamond as a stage as to actually participate in the game, her mother said.

"She was the one who, when we sat in the stands, the other parents would say, 'Look at the girl on second base. She's dancing,' " Ricketts said, laughing. "Softball wasn't for her."

Candace has been a student at Ballet Tennessee for six years. At age 12, she was accepted into the studio's elite company for professional dancers and students on a professional track, a commitment requiring about 13 hours of practice every week.

As a member of the company, she twice has been given leading roles in Ballet Tennessee's annual performance of "The Nutcracker." Three years ago, she was cast as Clara, the production's leading young role. Last year, she danced as the Snow Queen alongside partner Fredrick Davis, a former Ballet Tennessee student and guest performer from The Dance Theatre of Harlem.

Friday, Candace traveled with several other Ballet Tennessee members to Birmingham, Ala., to compete in the Panoply Choreography Competition. There, she performed "Just for Fun," a piece she helped choreograph that won at the statewide Tennessee Association of Dance conference last year, and "Concerto," a piece choreographed by Ballet Tennessee executive director Barry VanCura.

VanCura said that Candace's goal of becoming a professional dancer is well within her reach, thanks to her physical conditioning and her dedication to the art form from such a young age.

"She's very focused and very intelligent and has very strong artistic talent," he said. "You combine that all together, and it's a winning ticket. She's well on her way."


Do you know a child age 17 or younger with a precocious talent in academics, athletics or the arts? The Times Free Press is searching for children to feature in "Talent Show," which appears in the Life section on Tuesdays. To nominate a child as a possible subject of a future feature article, e-mail staff writer Casey Phillips at cphillips@timesfreepress.com or call him at 423-757-6205.