Teen pursues ballet dream in Russia In this photo taken on Thursday, March 3, 2016, Harper Ortlieb, from Mount Hood, Oregon, warms up for a performance at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow, Russia. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
Teen pursues ballet dream in Russia
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Among the dozen 15-year-old girls in lavender leotards in Tatyana Galtseva's class at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy, one is different. And it's not just because of her long, swan-like neck.
 
She is Harper Ortlieb, an American, who left her small town in Oregon to move to Moscow to follow her dream of becoming a prima ballerina.
 
The prestigious academy has 84 foreigners among its 721 students. But few are accepted when they are as young as Harper and few are integrated into the regular Russian program.
 
"She is a very gifted girl. She is all ballet, all inspiration," Galtseva said. "When children are talented, regardless of their nationality, they are alike in some way in how they approach what they do."
 
The Bolshoi took notice of Harper during a summer program it held in Connecticut and offered her a place in the Moscow academy. She knew her teachers would be tough and that it would be a challenge to be so far away from home. But it has been even harder than she expected.
 
"It's been very difficult, but with that comes strength and with that I improve," Harper said. "I feel like I came here to get better, to improve, not only technically but emotionally so when I dance people see something."
 
One concern for her parents in the decision to send their daughter, then 14, to Moscow was the strain in U.S.-Russian relations and the strong anti-American sentiments in Russian society.
 
Harper, though, says she feels accepted by her classmates. Her teacher concurs, noting that just that morning some of the other girls had brought her a skirt to wear over her leotard because they were expecting a visit to the class by foreign journalists.
 
In her Moscow neighborhood, the women in her favorite grocery store have taken a shine to the delicate American teen, helping her pick out fresh fruit and keeping her favorite almond butter stocked. And in the local Starbucks, they have learned to spell her unusual name on her cup.
 
A total of 17 Americans study at the Bolshoi academy. They are outnumbered among the foreign students only by the 28 from Japan, with the rest coming from 22 other countries. Some of the foreign students took part in the spring concert, and Harper was among the few girls from her class chosen for two of the dances.
 
"Preparing for a performance, it's all you think about. It kind of overtakes your mind," she said. "Preparing for exams, I'm always very nervous. There's a lot of stress. But with that stress, you know, comes happiness and you feel overjoyed when you're dancing. You forget about everything. You forget about the sacrifices you make. You forget about the pain, or the tears. Dancing is what makes me happy, no matter how much you have to sacrifice."
 
Her teacher believes Harper has what it takes to be a classical ballerina. She possesses not just the necessary physical and aesthetic qualities but also the will to learn.
 
"She is extraordinarily attentive," Galtseva said. "She is always smiling. Such a sweet, wonderful girl."
 
If Harper wants to be one of those rare foreigners who receive a diploma from the Bolshoi Ballet Academy, she has three more difficult years ahead. But now she has her mother back by her side.
 
Harper's mother, Layne Baumann, made two trips to Moscow after she and her husband, Tim Ortlieb, dropped off their only child in September. In February, Baumann decided to move to Moscow at least for the rest of the school year. She rents an apartment two blocks from the academy. It's allowed Harper to move out of the dormitory.
 
At the end of each day, Baumann talks to her daughter about what she learned in class and logs onto Skype. That allows Harper's father to join the conversation from their home in Mount Hood, Oregon. It is 11 time zones away.
 
In addition to her dance classes, Harper has Russian language lessons every day at the academy. For her other subjects, she does online classes in the evenings and on weekends.  Sunday is her only day off.  On that day, she and her mother often explore their new city. They also have already seen more performances at the Bolshoi Theater than most Russians see in a lifetime.
 
Harper started ballet when she was three years old. When she turned 11, she was accepted to the School of Oregon Ballet Theatre in Portland. It is a three-hour round-trip journey that she and her mother made six days a week.
 
"Being three in ballet class, it's fun and games," Harper said, smiling at the recollection. "My teacher was wonderful, it was so much fun. And then once I got more professional I realized how much you have to sacrifice. And how difficult it is."
 
She talks about learning to deal with the pain of wearing pointe shoes and the constant feeling of doubt that she's not good enough.
 
"And I'm not good enough. I mean, I'm not," Harper said. "We have to wait. I have to work harder."

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why does Harper have a better chance of fulfilling her dream by going to Russia?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (30)
  • Eric0221-YYCA
    3/14/2016 - 11:05 p.m.

    The teen might have been able to pursue her dream of taking ballet classes in Russia which she might have been able to fulfill her dreams by taking ballet classes in Russia which people might have been able to inspire her. The teen might have been able to push toward her dream that she had been waiting to be fulfilled which she had been waiting for the moment until she had been able to fulfill on what she wanted to do. Harper might have wanted to fulfill her dreams that she had wanted to be doing which she had been until she had her dreams to be fully fulfilled. Harper might have been waiting until the day that her dreams were fulfilled even though that she had sacrificed the things on what she had been doing until her dreams are fulfilled.
    Critical Thinking Question: Why does Harper have a better chance of fulfilling her dream by going to Russia?
    Answer: Because her chance on becoming professional is by going to Russia which there had been other good dancing classes in Russia which she had been able to become a professional dancer.

  • jocelyna-612-
    3/15/2016 - 12:55 p.m.

    I think that Harper has a better chance of fulfilling her dream by going to Russia because Russia is where ballet was practiced originally and she also had a chance to go to the Bolshoi Ballet Academy where she and other foreign student come to achieve their dreams and work hard and become challenged to become a wonderful ballerina.

  • TehyaWhite-Ste
    3/15/2016 - 01:06 p.m.

    This is amazing. It is great to see such a young girl have the bravery to leave her home behind to fulfill her dreams. I think this article teaches the ultimate lesson: anything can be achieved.

  • zoef-wes
    3/15/2016 - 02:40 p.m.

    Harper wants to go to Russia because , she wants to be one of those rare foreigners to receive a diploma. She would like to receive it from Bolshio Ballet Academy.

  • carolinev-2-bar
    3/15/2016 - 07:54 p.m.

    Going to Russia gives Harper a better chance of fulfilling her dream of becoming a prima ballerina ( the highest type of ballerina in any company) because since she was a Russian trained ballerina living in America she wasn't getting the best training she could, also if she moved to Moscow, Russia and got her diploma from the Bolshoi school, which is an excellent school, that would look great on her resume for any ballet company. In paragraph fourteen the article states,"If Harper wants to be one of those rare foreigners who receive a diploma from the Bolshoi Ballet Academy, she has three more difficult years ahead." this shows that Bolshoi Ballet Academy does not accept any body who just happens to wander in, and that these rare diplomas mean something in the ballet world.

    I very much enjoyed this article because i am also an aspiring dancer and so i loved to hear about her story.

  • aliviac-pla
    3/16/2016 - 04:20 p.m.

    Harper Ortlieb is an american girl who left america to move to Moscow to follow her dreams for being a prima ballerina. She left to join a prestigious academy that only have 84 foreigners among the 721 students. Bolshoi noticed Harper's talent during a summer program in Connecticut and offered her a place in the academy. It’s been a hard decision for her parents to let her move to Moscow although Harper says she feels accepted by her classmates. Harper is only one of 17 Americans studying at the academy and Harper wants to be one of those rare foreigners who receive a diploma from the Bolshoi Ballet Academy.

    Although this isn’t super engaging for society is can be seen as a an inspiration to people. It takes an amazing amount of courage to pack up all your things at the age of 14 like Harper did and head to a foreign country where you don’t know the culture, the people, or the language. Harper's story can be seen as an amazing act of courage and with support form the people around her she has a chance to go far with her ballet career.

  • ellerys-1-bar
    3/17/2016 - 08:55 p.m.

    By travelling to Russia to enroll in the Bolshoi Academy, Harper has the tools and opportunities to become a technically better dancer. With the reputation the school has of being a world famous talent factory, Harper will be able to learn from amazing teachers and coaches, along with being able to study and train with other talented dancers. This school will give Harper the opportunity to perform more and be continuously learning, which will better develop her skills as a dancer and prepare her for what professional dancing is like.

  • maggiec-3-bar
    3/17/2016 - 09:06 p.m.

    Harper has a better chance of fulfilling her dream by going to Russia because she would get better training there. Moscow, Russia is where the Bolshoi Ballet Academy is. That is the most prestigious ballet school in the world. Harper who is from a small town in Oregon had to drive three hours six days a week in order to get a good training in Oregon but in Moscow she will become closer to accomplishing her dream. In paragraph fourteen it says "Harper wants to be one of those rare foreigners who receive a diploma from the Bolshoi Ballet Academy, she has three more difficult years ahead." This shows that this school doesn't just let everyone in. You have to be truly talented and dedicated. I think that it is so cool that some girl from a small town in Oregon has an opportunity to go to such an amazing school all the way in Russia. If I was her I would be terrified to move all the way across the world but I'm glad that Harper is accomplishing her goals.

  • joiec-3-bar
    3/17/2016 - 11:07 p.m.

    Harper has a much better chance becoming a ballerina in Russia because Russia has some of the best ballet companies in the world. She was not getting the best training possible in America so she moved to Russia to maximize her training possibilities. In Moscow she hopes to earn a diploma from the Bolshoi Ballet Company, one of the most prestigious ballet schools in the world, and with that she is almost guaranteed success in the ballet world. I found this article very interesting because I am a dancer who would also dream of an opportunity like this.

  • olgan-4-bar
    3/18/2016 - 01:02 a.m.

    Harper has a better chance of fulfilling her dream in Russia because that country is known to produce the best ballet dancers in the world. The article states " If Harper wants to be one of those rare foreigner who receive a diploma from the Boshoi Ballet Academy, she has 3 long years ahead of her " meaning that it is a very hard school and she moved there to learn from the best. I think this article was inspiring to follow your dreams even when you're young.

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