Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Teen dancer takes it a step at a time toward Broadway


When the music fades, the sound of 28 ballet shoes rhythmically scuffing the black practice mat fills the high-ceilinged practice room. "Sparkling, brilliant feet!" the instructor calls, flitting from student to student. "They should be like a jewel — well cut." The room's tallest ballerina attacks each ecarté with a determined seriousness, her right leg and arm exacting in each outward sweep. After a summer driving from Brooksville to Tampa, Orlando, Vermont and New York, with frantic one-night scrambles at home in between, this endless routine of ecartés is pretty soothing for Ashlyn Bolton.

She hopes that someday, her sacrifices and countless hours at the Patel Conservatory's barre — not to mention lessons in jazz, tap, hip-hop, lyrical, piano and voice — will land her on Broadway.

"I can't say what it is I love about dance," said Bolton, 14, of Brooksville, her face lighting up. "I just do."

It's that passion for dance that made Bolton sacrifice days at the pool and lazy mornings at home all summer to crisscross the East Coast for intensive dance camps, workshops and master classes.

After a string of auditions "just for the experience" landed her spots in selective national programs, Bolton and her mother, Kim, drove to Vermont for a tap dancing camp, to New York City for a weeklong workshop with the Rockettes and to Orlando for a two-week ballet intensive at the Orlando Conservatory.

Each time, they came home just long enough to unpack, do laundry, sleep in their own beds and repack before hitting the road again.

"No matter how much dancing she does, it's never enough," Kim Bolton said. "She'd dance all day long if she could."

When Bolton turned 9, she'd been dancing for seven years and she craved a higher intensity of instruction. So her mother, who home-schools her children, drove her to Patel once a week.

This summer, she was spending six afternoons a week there, sometimes not getting home until 11 p.m. Those daily drives add more than 600 miles a week to Kim's car. The speedometer crept higher during thousand-mile road trips.

Just this week, Bolton learned she had been accepted in the Rhythm and Sole Tap Ensemble at the Hoffman Institute at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater.

Bolton has such severe allergies to nuts and dairy that she can't risk being exposed to airplane peanuts, Kim said, so the family drives everywhere.

Her dedication would suit Bolton well in a ballet company, instructor Melissa Stafford said.

In the acting world, actors move through a revolving door of auditions. But ballets select their stars from among their pre-selected company, deciding based on work ethic, attitude and suitability for each part.

"Ashlyn's work ethic and focus is outstanding," said Stafford, who has worked with Bolton for four years. "Her determination to get every detail right, day in, day out, is what leads to success."

Bolton doesn't want to be a ballerina. But she wants to be on stage, and the strength and grace ballet requires serves dancers well for any type of dance.

Even so, she has the long-limbed grace of a ballerina.

After her recent growth spurt, she stands 5 foot 9 in ballet shoes, taller than Stafford and all the girls in her class.

On pointe, she's 6 foot 1.

Stafford reaches up to Bolton's hand, correcting the graceful curve of her fingers as she begins another ecarté. Her leg sweeps to the right, and back to the center.

"It will never be perfect," Stafford reminds the class as another soothing piano recording begins.

"All we can do is keep trying."

Laura J. Nelson can be reached at (352) 584-3179 or at

Teen dancer takes it a step at a time toward Broadway 09/03/10 [Last modified: Friday, September 3, 2010 8:20pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Comedian and activist Dick Gregory dies at 84


    The comedian Dick Gregory rose to national prominence in the early 1960s as a black satirist whose audacious style of humor was biting, subversive and topical, mostly centered on current events, politics and above all, racial tensions. His trademark was the searing punchline.

    Dick Gregory, a comedian, activist and author, died Saturday. [Tribune News Service, 2011]
  2. Winter Haven police investigating armed robbery at Dollar General


    WINTER HAVEN — Police are investigating an armed robbery Friday night of a Dollar General store on W Lake Ruby Drive.

  3. Rowdies settle for draw at home


    ST. PETERSBURG — The good news for the Rowdies is that they still haven't lost a game at Al Lang Stadium since late April. The bad news is they had to settle for a 1-1 tie against Ottawa on Saturday night in front of 6,710 sweaty fans.

  4. Bats come to life, but Rays' freefall continues (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG —The six runs seemed like a ton, just the second time the Rays had scored that many in a game during their numbing two-plus-weeks stretch of offensive impotency, and amazingly, the first time at the Trop in nearly two months.

    Lucas Duda connects for a two-run home run in the sixth, getting the Rays within 7-5. A Logan Morrison home run in the ninth made it 7-6, but Tampa Bay couldn’t complete the comeback.
  5. 'Free speech rally' cut short after massive counterprotest


    BOSTON — Thousands of demonstrators chanting anti-Nazi slogans converged Saturday on downtown Boston in a boisterous repudiation of white nationalism, dwarfing a small group of conservatives who cut short their planned "free speech rally" a week after a gathering of hate groups led to bloodshed in Virginia.

    Thousands of people march against a “free speech rally” planned Saturday in Boston. About 40,000 people were in attendance.