Jan. 12, 2023 -- When most parents sign their toddlers up for recreational dance or sports lessons, they do it as a way to keep little ones busy or help them make new friends or maybe in the hopes that the particular activity will turn into a childhood hobby. But for Heights High senior Devyn Etling, the ballet class she took at the Cleveland Heights Rec Center when she was two years old turned into not just a lifelong passion, but a potential career path.
Now a trainee at the Cleveland Ballet Company and a student at the Cleveland School of Ballet, Devyn is a full time dancer while also finishing high school and taking online courses at the University of Cincinnati. She’s enrolled in one in-person class at Heights High each day and then dances from 10am until 6:30 or 7:30 p.m. six days a week, working on college classes in the evenings.
“It’s intense,” she admits of her very full schedule. “But that’s what I like. It’s never easy or boring and every day I learn something new.”
Her commitment is paying off. This year, she was cast as a Snow Maiden for the matinee performances of the Cleveland Ballet Company’s production of The Nutcracker. She was also cast as a Ukrainian dancer in the second act for all seven performances.
“It was such an honor,” she said of performing that lively European folk dance. Normally known as the Russian Dance, the Cleveland Ballet Company joined many other companies across the country in renaming it the Ukrainian Dance this year. With a Ukrainian teacher, Devyn had the opportunity to learn traditional dance moves and wear a traditional costume.
Though she’s only inside Heights High for one period each morning, her ties to the school community are strong. She says she has always been “supported by Heights and the Heights community.”
Her neuroscience teacher Nicole Zubik, who recently attended one of Devyn’s performances along with teachers Olivia Fatica and Leatrice Clark, is sufficiently wowed by all her student has accomplished. “Seeing her in the Nutcracker was such an amazing experience, and all the more impressive knowing she had different roles for two performances on the same day. She is truly a talented, driven and kind young woman and a great role model for her peers.”
“It’s very fun to share what I spend my time working on with them,” said Devyn of her teachers’ attendance.
After graduating, she will finish her second year as a trainee while continuing to take college courses online in the hopes of then joining a ballet company as a full time professional dancer.
“It’s so rewarding to be up on that stage performing something we’ve worked so hard on,” she says. “This is what I love.”