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A dream come true; Kenmore East junior, who will dance the lead in 'Cinderella' for the Greater Buffalo Youth Ballet, prepares to graduate early and sets her sights on the Boston Ballet

Balancing extracurricular activities and four years of high school can be tough. Try fitting it all into three years and add seven hours a week of dance classes -- and you'll catch a glimpse into the life of 16-year-old Kristine Butler.

The Kenmore East High School junior, who will graduate with the class of 2011 in June, has big plans for a dance career. She'll take the next step on Friday with the starring role in the Greater Buffalo Youth Ballet's production of "Cinderella."

Kristy had to audition for the role, but her instructor, Elizabeth DiStasio-Waddell, says it was clear she would play the lead.

"It's our fourth time performing 'Cinderella,' but Kristy fits the role the most," DiStasio-Waddell said. "She has the talent and the personality for it."

Kristy, who has been dancing since she was 3, has performed in other ballets through the Royal Academy of Dance in Tonawanda, including "Three Wishes," "Firebird" and "Sleeping Beauty." She rehearses at the Royal Academy studio nearly every evening in preparation for her parts, but says she usually starts learning the steps from a video of other performances. A month before the show, her schedule expands to include hours on Saturday and Sunday, leaving her with little time for anything else.

But she's still made time to balance classes that are required for both her junior and senior years to attain enough credits to graduate in June. In addition to 11th-grade advanced placement courses in English and history, she's taking senior English, economics, government, and precalculus.

"It's a lot of work," she admits.

But it's all part of her plan. She intends to move to Boston in September to audition for the pre-professional program at the Boston Ballet. The program, which is affiliated with a performing arts high school, pledges on its website to "provide students with a steppingstone to further pursue a professional ballet education."

Five weeks of intensive training will precede Kristy's audition. She'll dance for five to six hours a day under the instruction of professional dancers. Applicants are considered for both the Boston Ballet's second company and the school's trainee program.

"But because I'll have graduated [from high school] already, I won't be able to live in their dorms," she says. "I'm a little nervous."

Hoping that her Boston stay will span through next year, Kristy says she's going to delay any thoughts of college. But, she says of future plans, "Some of my friends and I think it would be fun to open our own dance studio one day."

But for now, her attention is focused on her upcoming performance. The production of "Cinderella" is being staged by the Greater Buffalo Youth Ballet, a nonprofit organization that boasts more than 90 dancers and promises to provide them with "a quality education and experience in the performing art of dance."

DiStasio-Waddell, who is the organization's artistic director, says that "Cinderella" is a particularly appealing ballet.

"It's great to perform because the acting means it appeals to more people," she says.

She also says that it's an incredible opportunity for Kristy. As the lead, she'll dance alongside guest artist Rick Callender, formerly with both the Washington and Suzanne Farrell ballets.

Callender recently came from Philadelphia to Tonawanda to practice with Kristy. As the two leads, they rehearsed Sunday during a one-on-one session.

This will be Kristy's last performance in Western New York before she leaves for Boston.

"She is a beautiful dancer and a beautiful person," DiStasio-Waddell said.


"Cinderella" will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the University at Buffalo's Center for the Arts, North Campus, Amherst.


Lindsay Thomas is a junior at Kenmore East High School.

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