Lovely Hillary

From my earliest memory, I remember wanting more than anything, to be a dancer. That dream took nearly 40 years to materialize for me. And it most certainly is different from what I envisioned as a 4, 7, or 16-year-old. I had given up on my own dream of dancing for 20 years of my adult life. So, before I ever knew I would be able to  dance in my own life, I promised myself that my children would be given the opportunity to dance. Now… obviously, whether they decided to use that opportunity was entirely their choice. I had also promised myself that I wouldn’t force them to dance (only that they had to try it out and see if it fit). But, I didn’t want them to feel like they had ever missed a chance to participate in something that they love. I wanted my children to dare to dream. In dance that means you have to work hard and find the right people as mentors and trainers.

I moved to Salt Lake at the end of 2005. I had no idea where to send a child for proper  ballet training. A year later when I decided to enroll my eldest daughter in ballet, it really was just a matter of convenience. I drove by a studio frequently, and they had the biggest banner. That was it. Though it became apparent very quickly that this was the wrong place for her to be. It took me 2 years to find the “right place”, but after attending a street fair, I settled on a man in the avenues. He was friendly, charismatic, charming and handsome. He was a beautiful dancer himself. And, he seemed like he wanted to train the children well. Unfortunately, he wasn’t the right fit either. Mid semester, he decided that he didn’t want to work with little kids anymore. He wanted to focus on his teens that could compete, leaving all these little girls out in the cold. And this was only 2 months before the spring recital. As parents, I think it’s safe to say, most of us felt hurt and a little betrayed that he would do this at all, especially in the middle of the year. But! I think we soon decided we were better off, because what we ended up with were a couple of women that knew what they were doing, AND  they cared about the children.

Mattie Do, Terry Davis, and Hillary Van Moorleghem stepped in and picked up the pieces of a shattered partnership. That was four years ago, and I’ve been happy with them ever since. Terry and Hillary together have been like a married couple…working 6 and 7 days a week to create SLC Ballet: a ballet studio that parents can feel good about…  knowing that their kids will be trained safely and properly.  The girls and boys are taught in a way, that if they choose, the children can actually take the technique and skill with them when they get older. I say this, but you have to understand that the studio isn’t just about training. These women love our children. They took about 9 little girls almost 4 years ago and built a studio, literally from the ground up. Now they have around 100 students of all ages, as well as a successful adult program. The reasons for this success seem obvious. They bring in teachers that are professional dancers. They work long hours. And I think most importantly, they care about balancing love with rigorous training. Hillary will now move on to fulfill another dream, and though I am sad to see her  moving on…as a dancer with dreams, I understand she has to follow her heart. Justine Sheedy-Kramer will fill her shoes. I don’t know Justine well, but like Terry and Hillary she is dedicated to the kids and dedicated to the studio mission. I’m looking forward to getting to know her better. But I want to leave my impressions of Hillary before she embarks on her adventures.

Tall, beautiful, young and soft-spoken it could be easy for some to overlook Hillary as a driven and strong woman. But that’s exactly what she is. As a dance major at the University of Utah she has no background in business. What could have easily faded away 4 years ago, has grown tenfold because Hillary IS a skilled business woman. It doesn’t matter if it’s her training or intuition, it works. She has a wonderful product to sell…excellent teachers that care about kids. But without business savvy, skill and drive, this studio could have faded long ago among the hundreds of other dance studios in this city. Lets face it, in a culture with large families (and lots of them) a lot of parents look for convenience. Being one of the best, doesn’t always mean you will succeed in  a saturated environment. Hard working, Hillary sets the example for her students and demands no less of them. Working with small children can  be overwhelming at times. It could be easy for things to escalate and get out of control in a room full of  4 and 5 year olds, but the little ones know even with her gentle nature, she demands respect and full attentiveness. It’s fascinating for me to watch her command attention with the little ones while never raising her voice.

Hillary is also a strong supporter of the arts and being integrated in the larger community. She brings the kids to fairs, libraries, and any random arts event. This has helped them in so many ways. Now Hillary leaves for 6 months to dance and travel Australia, South America, North America, and Europe. I will miss seeing her at the studio. I will miss seeing her at our tango class (yet another example of her desire to try all kinds of dance and to integrate the various art communities together). I’m grateful for the time she has been here enriching the lives of us around her.

And I’m so pleased that Hillary leads by example. It’s ok to dream, even as an adult…that these dreams take hard work, and that we can always grow. I learn from this incredible young woman.

Safe travels Hillary. We can’t wait to hear all about your adventures!