Yeruti Estigarribia has been a dancer since she was 3 years old, and is working hard to realize her dream of dancing professionally. The 16-year-old Ashland High student has been accepted into a prestigious dance academy and, with some friends, she has organized a benefit show to help raise money for her upcoming school year.
Her family and teachers are proud of the young dancer. Lorenzo Santa Barbara, Estigarribia's uncle and also one of her dance instructors at the Le Cirque Center, says he is struck by her openness and understanding of herself as a dancer.
"Yeruti feels what she does. She's not just a dancer on the outside; she dances from the inside out," said Santa Barbara.
The youngest of six siblings, Estigarribia says she feels fortunate to be surrounded by such supportive and talented relatives. Her cousin Cassie Preskenis is owner of Creative Dance for Children. Estigarribia works closely with Preskenis at the dance studio, assisting her with classes.
"I've known Yeruti since she was a baby, and even then you could tell she was something special," Preskenis said. "Yeruti helps me with several of my classes. She's gifted with people and I can see how deeply her passion for dance imprints on the children. She's a bright light, everyone just loves to watch her."
The Daily Tidings caught up with Estigarribia between dance rehearsals and talked with her about her abiding passion for dancing.
DT: What are your favorite subjects in school?
YE: I like math, science and English.
DT: Tell us about someone at school who inspires you.
YE: My greatest inspiration has come from my dance instructors. Aisha Wand because she left a small town somewhere in the South, didn't go to college, but braved the big city of Los Angeles auditioning as much as she could. She ended up dancing with Michael Jackson and all sorts of well-known people. My uncle Lorenzo Santa Barbara, who first taught me technique and gave me many opportunities to perform. My aunt Priscilla Quinby, who encouraged me to study ballet and, of course, Gene Leyden, first dance teacher for so many kids in Ashland who continues to support my ambitions. I'm also inspired by my cousins, Reesie, who is the first in our family to pursue dancing as a career, and Cassie, who followed her love of dance by buying Gene's business. She's also given me the opportunity to teach dance to others.
DT: What do you like to do outside of school?
YE: I like to dance, run, play tennis, play piano, dance, sing, hang out with my friends and dance.
DT: Talk about dancing.
YE: I love all the different styles and how each one gives you an opportunity to express yourself in a new way. I also love the rush I get from being on stage and when I hear those first notes of the music my stomach starts to relax and I block out everything completely and let the music lead my body. What I don't like are the body aches, the injuries, the bleeding feet.
DT: Tell us a little about the Interlochen Arts Academy.
YE: Interlochen Arts Academy is a performing-arts high school in Michigan. It's one of the top in the country and offers an amazing program for aspiring artists like myself. I'm really excited to have been accepted and given the opportunity to learn from the talented staff they have. Hopefully, my year at the boarding school will give me an understanding of the levels of other dancers of my generation and if pursuing a career in dance is what I really want to do and if I am tough enough for the job.
DT: Talk about the benefit show you are doing on Thursday and Friday this week.
YE: I'm putting on the show to help raise money for my tuition at Interlochen. Although I got quite a generous scholarship from the school, it would help my family and me out a lot to have a little bigger of a financial aid package. I have asked a few of my talented friends — Angelica Florio, Lyric Tucker, Sophie Javna, Savannah Kahn, Aurelia Grierson, Hanna Winters — and my father, Jim Quinby, to perform in a short show. I have choreographed a couple of dances that I will be dancing. Two of my dancer friends have been kind enough to allow me to use their bodies as my puppets and they will be performing a piece by me, as well. It will be a night full of dancing, singing and music by some of the undiscovered talented youth of Ashland High School.
DT: Do you have trouble balancing school and your outside interests?
YE: It's hard at times to get everything that I want to get done, done but I do it anyway. The majority of the school year I got up at 7:15 or 7:20, allowing myself a whole 30 minutes to get ready after staying up until 2 getting my homework done. It can be stressful, but my mom is always ready and willing to help me with anything I need. It is very comforting to know I have her support.
DT: What do you want to do after high school?
YE: Ideally, I would like to dance. I am interested in going to Julliard, UC Santa Barbara, NYU or somewhere with an outstanding dance program. Later, maybe join a company or even start my own and teach classes. However, if dance as a career doesn't work in my favor, medical school is also an interest of mine. I think it would be really fun to become an obstetrician or a trauma nurse or doctor.
DT: Talk about something you have done that makes you proud.
YE: Being accepted at Interlochen. It draws students from all over the world and is highly competitive. I not only had to fill out tons of paperwork and write essays, just like applying for college, but I had to choreograph my first dance for an audition.
DT: How do you feel about being away from home for a year?
YE: I'm excited, but also nervous. I'll miss my family, but my mom will visit and I'll be able to come home for Thanksgiving. And I'm a little nervous about having a roommate.
DT: Talk about something that is challenging for you.
YE: It's hard for me to say "no" to people when they are in need of some assistance and I often find myself overwhelmed with an ongoing list of "to-do" things that never seems to shorten. I try to please everyone I can, but this year it's been especially hard for me to find some relaxing "me" time. Part of the difficulty is that I think I don't know what a relaxing time is. Plus, whenever I try to rest, I find myself back at the studio for a late-night rehearsal or running around with friends instead of catching up on sleep.
DT: Tell us about someone in your family who makes you proud.
YE: My mom makes me especially proud. She always tries to stay upbeat and positive and thinks of ways to give my siblings and me everything we want. She's done a great job raising us after my father passed away, and keeping her business afloat. My dad passed away about a month before I was born in Paraguay. My mom moved us back here and kept everything together. I love her to death, and she's the one person I really feel has had faith in me my whole life. I've never had to explain or prove myself to her; she just believes in me.
Yeruti Estigarribia's benefit show will run Thursday and Friday at 7 p.m. at Le Cirque Center, 280 E. Hersey St. Suggested ticket prices are $10 for adults and $5 for children. For more information e-mail email@example.com.