Allie Burman is a 12-year-old Ahwatukee Foothills resident with a real spring in her step and a passion for the ballet.

Starring last year in Ballet and Friends' production of The Nutcracker, Burman auditioned for different ballet schools across the country. After only attending a few tryouts, Burman was offered two scholarships to attend different summer ballet intensive programs; one at the Houston Ballet in Texas, and the other at The Jillana School in Taos, N.M.

Ultimately, Burman said she and her family felt the three-week summer intensive program at the Houston Ballet would be the best fit for her.

She noted that her time with the Houston Ballet was a great experience.

"It was absolutely amazing," Burman said. "We almost didn't come back."

After the program ended, she was offered to train year-round with the Houston Ballet. Her mother, Connie Burman, said at this point she and her family were not ready to make that kind of commitment, and that they still had time before they needed to take that leap to further their daughter's career.

Burman's next stop was Florida where she saw Julie Kent, an American Ballet Theater dancer; perform in Giselle at the Boca Ballet.

After the Giselle performance, Burman was off to the Miami City Ballet, where she auditioned for their year-round program. She was offered a spot, however, Connie said they declined the invitation, as they were still not ready to make such a big commitment.

Back home in Arizona, Burman participated in a week-long intensive program at Ballet Arizona. She also continued her training at the Master Ballet Academy under the instruction of Slawomir and Irena Wozniak, and also at the Tempe Dance Academy, 1840 E. Warner Road, Suite 132, where she trains with Natalia Magnicaballi, principle dancer for Ballet Arizona.

This year, Burman is a seventh-grader at the Arizona School for the Arts, 1313 N. 2nd St., where she is involved in the school's dance program. She recently started her own dance club, "Dance for a Dream."

Burman said she has meetings once a week during lunch where she and other students play music and come up with dance routines together. The club has about 40 students involved.

"I'm really thrilled about it," Burman said, adding that she hopes to one day perform the club's routines for people in hospitals and at senior citizen centers. She said right now the club is focusing on learning a few routines from The Nutcracker, and hopes to be able perform them in either January or February at the assisted living home her grandmother lives in.

Burman also said she's very happy with her school.

"I get the best of both worlds," she said, adding that she trains four to five days a week.

With all her weekly activities, Burman said she has to realize when she needs to take a break and does so by occasionally taking a day off from her normal routine.

"Sometimes I have to trust my body," she said.

Burman's parents said they are very dedicated to doing what is best for their daughter, and know while she is young and very flexible it is important to work on her technique and strength. Connie said although their philosophy on her dance career may be different from others, they believe what they are doing is best for their daughter.

"We want her to stay strong," Connie said. "We want it to be long lived."

This year, Burman continues her starring role as Clara in Ballet and Friends' production of The Nutcracker. This will be Burman's eighth year performing in the production. This time she will be joined by several international performers.

"We all have a great time together," Burman said, adding that she's currently practicing two days a week for the show, a number that will increase as it gets closer to the performances.

"It's really worth it," she said. "It's the best thing I could ask for."

The Nutcracker runs Nov. 26-28, with two performances on all three evenings, at Stage West at the Herberger Theater in Phoenix, 222 E. Monroe St.

Ballet and Friend's will once again be donating a portion of the performance proceeds to the U.S. Marine Corps' Toys for Tots campaign , and will also be collecting toys for the charity at all performances.

Chelsea Brown is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. She is a senior at Arizona State University.

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