Ballerina takes dancing to a higher level

Jeannie Williams , Staff Reporter


Students struggle to find a way to balance schoolwork, extra-curricular activities and plans for the future.  Junior Lauren Menke has found a way to combine all three by taking part in the Orlando Ballet Dance School.

Dancing for the Orlando Ballet requires Menke to dance continuously from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on an average day. She takes three courses at Hagerty and takes the rest virtually in order to make it to her dance class. The dedication she shows to ballet has been 15 years in the making.

“Dancing started out as just a pastime, and it progressed into something I really enjoy, and I want to make a career out of it,” Menke said.

Dancing full time means having to give up other extracurriculars. Menke had to quit cross country in order to be more serious with ballet and is currently only in one school club, National Honor Society.

Since she was two, Menke has been dancing, but it was not always ballet. She used to dance competitively with Adrenaline Dance Studio before it closed, which led her to the Orlando Ballet. Because Orlando Ballet is not oriented toward competitions, Menke can only participate in two. Her most recent competition was the American Dance Competition on Saturday, March 22.

Menke’s mom pushed for her to take up ballet, but she refused because she wanted to compete.

“When I got to high school, I wanted a fresh start and decided to give it a try.  I ended up loving it,” Menke said.

A big part of participating in the Orlando Ballet school is studying the different styles of ballet and putting them to the test.

“It’s really been a learning experience. You have to know a lot about the art before you can do it,” Menke said.

The Orlando Ballet divides dancers into seven levels of ability for classes. Even though she started out with little experience in ballet, Menke was able to increase two levels quickly in her time there. She has been able to gain more knowledge by working with several different dancers. In an environment with so many experienced dancers, she has gotten to take classes with several different instructors that help her learn more.

“As a dancer, you can only improve from experience and taking classes from different instructors who help you look at things from a different perspective,” Menke said.

Menke also uses the Orlando Ballet to complete her community service hours by assisting with the classes for three- and four-year-olds. On days when she feels like she is not making any improvement, she says working with the kids helps her to see how far she has come.

“She’s an amazing dancer and I’m proud of her,” Menke’s brother Mitchell Menke said.

After practically a lifetime of dance, it can be easy to get bored, but Menke has stuck with dance all these years because of her love for both the art and the sport.

“I like that it’s not solely based on one talent. You get everything in one,” Menke said.

Menke plans on staying with the Orlando Ballet through graduation, and then continuing at the collegiate level.