Young Ballerina Earns U.S. State Department Scholarship
Kyra Atchason likes to aim high. So it's no surprise that the 16-year-old junior at Eastlake High School leapt at the chance to dance on a legendary stage.
This accomplished young ballerina became one of 16 American high school girls selected to spend six weeks training at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow last summer.
"It was one of the best summers I've ever had," she said. "It required a lot of discipline and was really hard, but it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
Kyra Atchason (left) with Bolshoi Summer
Intensive classmate Remy Lamping in Moscow
During their six weeks at the Bolshoi, the girls spent four hours each weekday morning polishing their ballet skills with Russian instructors. After lunch, they put in three hours studying the Russian language. Weekend stays with host families, trips to museums and historic sites rounded out their cultural experience.
It was all part of the National Security Language Initiative sponsored by the U.S. State Department. Students selected to participate receive an all-expenses paid immersion in a foreign country. "I've always loved the Russian language and I was trained in the Russian ballet method, so I was interested in going to Russia and learning more about the Russian culture," said Kyra.
The program is called the Summer Moscow Intensive and the schedule lived up to the name. But luckily for her, Kyra is no stranger to hard work and discipline.
At home, she attends daily ballet classes for 3 hours after school while carrying a full academic load that includes Japanese language, Advanced Placement classes in English, Statistics and U.S. History, and an honors class in math analysis. "I really love school," says Kyra who is striving to push her grade point average above 3.8.
Kyra with soldiers in Moscow
She was only two and a half years old when her parents took her to her first ballet class. "They said I was still in diapers for that first class and for my first show," she laughed.
Last fall, Kyra became a trainee with the professional dance company, City Ballet of San Diego. Over the holidays, she appeared in the company's production of the Nutcracker.
At her young age, Kyra's dedication to ballet has opened many doors to her. Still, she has no plans to quit school and turn pro as another young ballerina with her potential might. She has her sights set on going to college and perhaps studying medicine instead.
"I just did it for a hobby," she said. "Ballet has given me this amazing opportunity and a lot of people make a living at it, but I really love school and want to go to college."