Supporting others on and off the stage was the idea behind one teen's Big Sister/Little Sister program.
"We are lucky to have a great group of unified senior girls who help and support each other on stage and off," said Alyssa Cameron, a student at Westminster Schools of Augusta. "We realize the difference it makes when groups of dancers are also close friends. I thought it would be good to find a way for the older girls to get to know the youngest members of the company."
From vision to reality, the Big Sister/Little Sister program at Columbia County Ballet was established last year with 12 little sisters and 10 big sisters.
"I remembered how great it was as a young dancer to know that an older girl was watching out for me," said Alyssa, a dancer since she was 2. "When I was a Les Petites, I had some very nice older girls who taught me a lot and guided me through my first years of company. We became lifelong friends."
Alyssa talked to company owner Ron Jones about "developing a program that would build friendships and also serve to mentor younger dancers." Jones was enthusiastic at the idea and has been impressed with the results.
"When the new members join the performing company, Alyssa's program, Big Sis/Little Sis, assigns each newcomer to an older dancer who has performed with the company for years," Jones said. "This older sis helps guide the younger sis through her first year of membership, helping with concerns such as pointe shoes, classroom etiquette, backstage orientation and just being there for her when she needs a friend."
Catherine Kenyon was mentored by Alyssa this year and said the program was great, especially since she developed so many new friendships because of it.
"I was new to pointe shoes and I didn't know how to tie them," said Catherine, a rising seventh-grader at Evans Middle School. "Alyssa helped me tie them before every performance of 'The Nutcracker.'"
The girls would carpool, go for ice cream and exchange gifts after performances.
"As a company member, the expectations and responsibilities of the dancer are increased, making it both exciting and challenging at the same time," Alyssa said. "Some of these things can be hard to learn by yourself, so it is nice to have an experienced dancer to talk to for advice.
"It is great to have someone to share the great times with, too, who understands from their own similar experiences. Having a big sister provides that one very special contact person who is always there to welcome and support each new dancer as they transition into the company."
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