Iowa City teen heading to Interlochen to continue ballet studies

Opportunity to study at prestigious Michigan school 'a little unreal'

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IOWA CITY — When Allison Christopher was a little girl, she was obsessed with ballerinas.

She loved the “Angelina Ballerina” books and had a tutu and ballet slippers she wore as she danced around the house. She dreamed of becoming a prima ballerina.

“I like the elegance. I like to bring this beautiful, classical music to life and tell a story with it,” she said.

A decade later, she’s still dancing and is well on her way to making her dreams a reality. The Iowa City 17-year-old is preparing to head to the prestigious Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan next year.

Christopher, the daughter of Joe and Tracy Christopher of Iowa City, is to attend the boarding school for her senior year while furthering her classical ballet and pointe dance studies.

“It’s a little unreal. It still hasn’t set in that I’m going to this super prestigious school for something I’ve been working on since I was five years old,” she said.

She applied and attended an audition in Chicago and said learning she was accepted was an affirmation of her goals.

“It gives me more self-confidence, too, that maybe I could make a career of this,” she said. “This is what I want to do with my life. This is what I’m supposed to be doing.”

After finishing high school at Interlochen, she hopes to continue dancing in college and eventually audition for professional ballet companies around the country.

Her dance teacher since eighth grade, Sarah Barragan, owner of City Ballet of Iowa in Iowa City, said Christopher’s dedication is clear.

“To go to Interlochen, it takes daily practice and focusing on your goals and aligning your work academically and artistically,” she said. “She’s a lovely person, she’s really encouraging and friendly to everyone. Her attendance is practically perfect. Every day, it’s like, yep, there’s Allison.”

Christopher estimates she practices 16 hours a week during the school year and around 12 in the summer. It’s a lot of work, but she said it’s worth it.

“There are days I do wonder why I do so much, especially days when my body is like, ‘Why am I doing this?’” she said. “But then I remember this is the one thing that has been a constant, that I’ve kept doing my whole life.”

Ballet, she said, brings her joy. She likes the mixture of physical precision and self-expression.

“I’m very much in control of what my body is doing, but it’s also very freeing at the same time,” she said. “It’s always been the one place where I could be myself ... I just can focus on this one thing for two hours at a time.”

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