For many teens, summer brings to my warm weather, camp and lazy days. But for Claudia Montague, a sophomore at Parkway North High School and congregant of Temple Israel, summers means the chance to dance on the stage of the MUNY open-air theater in St. Louis. Claudia has been dancing since age 4 and loving it.
“It makes me feel really powerful,” Claudia said.
Every night, Claudia dreams of performing. Whether it is her favorite, ballet, or jazz, her second favorite, Claudia constantly learns more about her body as a dancer. She practices at the St. Louis Academy of Dance around 10 hours each week. Each move, mistake, turn, or twist Claudia makes teaches her how to improve for next time. She hopes to take perfection onto the stage.
Auditioning for the MUNY was very exciting and almost surreal for Claudia. Auditioning for the MUNY and the MUNY Teens was, ” really exciting. [I was] very excited about [making it]” Claudia said.
She tried out once when she was eight, and kept at it until she made the cast. This past summer, she performed in the musicals “Shrek,” “Nunsense,” and “West Side Story,” in addition to the “MUNY Teens.” At a younger age, Claudia also participated in her school dance and choir group, “North by Northeast”, and the musical, “Seussical the Musical.” At Parkway North High, Claudia performed as Lucy from “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown”.
“[It was] really neat to work with professionals, I loved the group of friends I made, and it was just exciting to see the shows coming together in 11 days.” Claudia said when asked about her favorite part of performing at the MUNY.
“My future job would have to be involved in musical theater. If it doesn’t happen then teaching dance or choreographing. [If none of that happens, I would want to be involved in] physical therapy.” Claudia said.
Although dance is very important to her, there are two things that comes before it. “School always comes first, [because it is] important to my family” Claudia said.
Claudia dedicates a tremendous amount of time to improving her skills, and her mother, Sheryl Montague, commits time for driving and encouragement. She provides advice to budding dancers.
“It’s not easy. If she wants to be a dancer, she’s going to have to be a waitress. They both have to have determined, rejected from time to time, and a fighter,” Montague said. The most important thing you can learn from a dancer is her persis10ce to start over, time after time, correct the mistakes, to try harder and harder, and to push yourself to a point where you feel on top of the world. If a child starts dancing at age four, they’re going to be just as good as a dancer as someone who started dancing at age seven. By age eight, both children will show the same skills. “I tell her to relax, breathe, and to break a leg. Most importantly, to have fun because that’s what matters most.”
Claudia encourages everyone to try for every opportunity presented.
“Even if you do not think you would make something, do it for the experience and opportunity,” Claudia said.
She has made many new friends and is well-educated on a wide variety of subjects from the opportunities and experiences she has taken.
“What she does is emotional, not because of the competition in other girls, but the competition with herself,” Mrs. Montague said.
A competition with yourself can always be frustrating. However, with friend Sophia Bell, a sophomore at Parkway North High School, the performance was more interesting for both Claudia and Sophia.
“It gave me joy and a sense pride knowing one of my best friends was up on stage doing something she loved and I felt very honored to know her.” Sophia said.
Both Claudia and Sophia met at Daisy’s (girl scouts) in first-grade, and have been friends since.
“All the actors looked like they were enjoying every second they were up on stage performing and no matter what night it was, they had so much energy and excitement. It was always an awesome show.” Sophia said.
A friend of 10 years knows what it is like to have support and encouragement from family and friends.
“I think Claudia appreciated having me there for support, because she knows I love watching her perform, especially at such a well known place like the Muny. I felt very happy that I was able to go and support her and to watch her do what she loves.” Sophia said.