Stepping up to the stage

An image of Danielle Serota’s early days as a dancer.

By Kyla Gersten, Parkway Central High School

Passion and dedication are the first words that come to mind when thinking about Danielle Serota.

Danielle is a freshman at Parkway Central High School and has been dancing since she was very little. Currently, she dances at Patzius Performing Arts, where she has taken the highest level of dance since age 11, but her career began much earlier.

“I started dancing at three years old,” Danielle said. “I have loved it from the beginning.”

Although she found herself quickly gravitating towards the art, she had to deal with the issue of stage fright as a young girl. She quit dance for a couple of years because she was too scared to perform in front of an audience. But at her own persistence, she decided to begin dancing again when she was nine and has continued ever since.

“When I made the decision to go back to dance in fourth grade, it was hard at first because everyone else had been dancing forever and I was starting all over again,” Danielle said. “But I worked really hard and I knew that I wanted to do this. I had my mind set on it.”

By the end of the year, she had caught up with the other dancers in her class and even performed a short solo in one of the studio’s marquee shows. Danielle will never forget her first recital after quitting. While she was practicing her dance behind the curtain minutes before the show started, she badly injured her foot. Despite the pain, she decided to go ahead and perform, putting her dedication to dance before everything else.

“The show must go on,” she said. “Even at that performance I realized how much I loved dance.”

Danielle continued to grow as a dancer and in 2007, when she was 10 years old, the Joffrey Ballet came to St. Louis to perform the “Nutcracker.” She decided to audition for the show.

“This was my first audition and I was really excited and scared,” Danielle said. “I didn’t know what it was going to be like.”

Danielle was cast as the role of a soldier in the 2007 ballet, and performed on the big stage at the Fox Theatre. Two years later, when the company returned to St. Louis, Danielle decided to audition again. She earned the part of a Polichinelle Mouse, but soon after a conflict arose.

“I wasn’t going to be able to do both performances because one of them was on my best friend’s bat mitzvah,” Danielle recalled. “I ended up having to make a really, really hard decision and did the show. This is when I learned how much I was going to need to sacrifice for my future dance career.”

The next year Danielle received an even bigger role in the “Nutcracker” production as one of the leading children. The summer before she took the stage in the Tchaikovsky’s classic, she received the amazing opportunity to attend two summer dance intensive programs. She chose to study dance at the Atlanta Ballet BalletMet for two weeks and then fly to Columbus, Ohio the following day for another six-week program.

“During both intensives, we would dance five to six days a week from about 9 to 6,” Danielle said. “These intensives were a great opportunity for me to experience different types of dance. Ballet has always been my passion but when going away I have gained appreciation for other types of dance.”

Danielle’s intense dance schedule, which includes four hours of dance five days a week as well balancing her honors classes, social life and sleep, can be a challenge.

“I have always been a straight A student and it’s hard because I have to make a lot of sacrifices,” Danielle said. “I don’t always get to go out on Friday night, I don’t get a lot of sleep and I’m in all honors classes so the work is a lot harder.”

But schoolwork and social expenses are only some of the burdens Danielle bears. After suffering a torn meniscus and severely damaged knee, she was forced to sit out of dance for three months while confined to a wheelchair. However, this only made Danielle’s dancing dedication stronger.

“Something about not being able to dance has made me realize how much more I wanted it,” Danielle said. “It inspired me to go even more. The fire inside of me exploded.”

Danielle’s mother, Pearl Serota, is in total support of her daughter’s passion for dance and has altered her own life in order to help support Danielle’s dance goals.

“Our life revolves around Danielle’s dance,” Pearl Serota said. “We plan vacations according to her dance schedule. It’s a huge investment of time, energy, and dedication to supporting her in this endeavor which we do with love because she has such a passion for it.”

As for the future, Danielle hopes to continue with dance through high school and college and eventually become a professional dancer.

“I want to go into a professional company,” Danielle said. “Since dance careers usually don’t last past 35, after I want to pursue other careers like journalism.”

Through all of the challenges and hardships, Danielle has learned many lessons that will carry her through life.

“Sometimes it can become really overwhelming but it has taught me to set priorities,” Danielle said. “I know what I want to do with my life. Everyday I go into the studio, I’m happy.”