Sunday, June 24, 2018
News Roundup

Young ballet hopeful qualifies for world competition

ST. PETERSBURG

Olivia Gusti adjusts her footwork in front of a wall of mirrors at the Next Generation Ballet for the Patel Conservatory in Tampa. Instructor Ivonne Lemus shouts instructions and assurances over roaring classical music.

In a series of leaps, Olivia, 15, darts from one corner of the studio to another in preparation for the Prix de Lausanne, an international competition for ballet students between the ages of 15 and 18. The St. Petersburg resident is one of 60 students globally and one of 10 in the United States to qualify for the competition. This year she placed in the top 12 at the Youth America Grand Prix, a nationwide competition.

The hours of training require the support of her family, where her father's military background comes in handy. John Gusti, 50, balances supporting his household and keeping his daughter focused. It's not a challenge for the former Marine.

"It may sound like this pressure comes from us, but the pressure comes from the schedules, the programs and life," John said. "We're just here for a backing. I'm here to give you the lift."

John and Sharla Gusti encouraged their daughter to try ballet from the age of 2. By 6, Olivia was focused on dance studies in Pensacola. What started as fun twirls for the 4-year-old shifted to a desire to perfect her movements.

"She was more interested in getting it right, even at that level, than just spinning and twirling with your head in the air with no direction," John said. It was then he realized it was time for Olivia to pursue the next level with The Nutcracker performances at the Pensacola Ballet.

Olivia's passion for ballet brought the family to St. Petersburg five years ago. As she trained more, the intensity of her lessons grew. She participated in private studies with Cuban and Russian instructors who challenged her to practice for five hours every Saturday. It wore at her interest.

Sharla Gusti recalls hearing Olivia complain of long hours, repetitive studies and exhaustion. She talked to John about Olivia's complaints. He gave Olivia a choice: ballet or piano.

"If you make the choice, whatever choice you make, there is no complaining, no negativity and you better give it your all," John told her.

Olivia chose ballet. The complaining stopped, John said, when she realized that it wasn't fun and games anymore and it was time for serious work. Olivia began focusing on different muscles to balance her limited flexibility to stay competitive.

"I picked ballet because it's more physically demanding and I don't like using my fingers," Olivia said. "You also get to use your artistry and your face when you dance."

Olivia cycled through instructors for pointe work, classical and modern ballet while auditioning for programs such as the School of American Ballet, hosted at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa. She also enrolled in summer intensive programs.

"She's just been working very hard every step of the way," said Peter Stark, Next Generation Ballet artistic director.

Olivia and fellow Prix qualifier Tanner Bleck, 15, of Tampa, study daily for up to seven hours with ballet classes, partnering studies, stretching, pointe work and rehearsal for Straz Center performances. Ballet dominates Olivia's days, but not before rising early for dual-enrollment courses through St. Petersburg College.

Olivia and her father will travel to Switzerland so she can compete for six days, beginning Sunday. He will be unable to watch her at work against competitors or demonstrate her skills in front of top ballet companies until the final performance. He plans to spend his time speaking with representatives from various schools and compiling information about the schools' qualities.

"It's really a tremendous honor,'' Stark said. "It's like being chosen for the Olympic team. These are the best dance students out there worldwide."

   
Comments
Father dead, suspect in custody after hit-and-run driver plows into New Tampa family on bike ride

Father dead, suspect in custody after hit-and-run driver plows into New Tampa family on bike ride

A Tampa man is dead and his 3-year-old son is in serious condition after being struck by a hit-and-run driver as they went on a family bike ride Sunday afternoon.A male suspect is in custody and being interviewed by police but his name has not yet be...
Updated: 2 hours ago
A local hockey draftee? Mitchell grad Nathan Smith is just that

A local hockey draftee? Mitchell grad Nathan Smith is just that

TAMPA — Every year during draft season, players from the Tampa Bay area are selected in the NFL, MLB and even NBA drafts.But NHL?Sure enough, in the third round of Saturday's NHL draft, the Jets selected Nathan Smith, a forward who was born in ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Office building demolition at Midtown Tampa site proves tougher than expected

Office building demolition at Midtown Tampa site proves tougher than expected

TAMPA ó Stripped to the girders, the old Bromley office building looked about as substantial as fish bones on a dinner plate.But the 5-story structure proved Sunday it still had a surprising amount of fight left in it.A demolition team had planned to...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Rays season turning into good one

Rays season turning into good one

ST. PETERSBURG — The Tampa Bay Rays are not the best team in baseball. They are not going to win the World Series this year. Heck, they probably won't even make the playoffs.But I tell you what. This team is a heck of a lot of fun to watch.And ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Rays beat Yankees in 12 innings on Jake Bauers homer

Rays beat Yankees in 12 innings on Jake Bauers homer

ST. PETERSBURG — Rays first baseman Jake Bauers sat at his locker after Sunday afternoon's 7-6, 12-inning win over the Yankees and thumbed through his text messages. There was no way he could get through them all. That's what happens when ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Rays journal: Yarbrough comes through, Venters to DL, support for Ramos

Rays journal: Yarbrough comes through, Venters to DL, support for Ramos

ST. PETERSBURG — Ryan Yarbrough was only supposed to throw on Sunday if it was an emergency. In the 12th inning with the score tied 6-6 and a runner on first, there was an emergency.Jonny Venters tweaked his right hamstring trying to cover firs...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Suspect dead, 2 injured in St. Petersburg home invasion-turned-shooting

Suspect dead, 2 injured in St. Petersburg home invasion-turned-shooting

ST. PETERSBURGSuspect dead, 2 injured in home invasion, shootingThree people forced their way into a St. Petersburg house before dawn Sunday before gunfire broke out, killing a suspect and injuring two residents, police said.About 5:30 a.m., the peop...
Updated: 6 hours ago
A jogger accidentally crossed into the US from Canada and was detained for two weeks

A jogger accidentally crossed into the US from Canada and was detained for two weeks

The coast of White Rock, British Columbia, in western Canada looks to be an ideal place for a run, with its sweeping views of the Semiahmoo Bay to the west and scores of waterfront homes and seafood restaurants to the east. Thatís what 19-year-old Ce...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Head-on crash kills Pasco teenager, injures three

Head-on crash kills Pasco teenager, injures three

NEW PORT RICHEY ó A 19-year-old driver died in a three-car crash on Moon Lake Road on Saturday afternoon, the Florida Highway Patrol reported.Jillian Faith Hitt, 19 and of New Port Richey, was driving north on the road in a 2008 Hyundai Accent, weari...
Updated: 11 hours ago
President Trumpís trade war threatens the US newspaper industry

President Trumpís trade war threatens the US newspaper industry

STERLING, Ill. - As a longtime editor of small-town newspapers, Jeff Rogers has seen his industry face the collapse of print advertising, the rise of the internet and more. Today, his 18 employees work in a newsroom here that puts out two daily newsp...
Updated: 11 hours ago