Her peers might spend the summer relaxing at the beach, working a seasonal job, or taking in activities at a summer camp, but Anna Craddock has other plans.
The 16-year-old Ward Melville High School student is headed to Russia to study ballet, culture and language for six weeks at the prestigious Bolshoi Ballet Academy, one of only 15 students in the nation selected by the U.S. Department of State to attend its NSLI for Youth Program, in conjunction with the Russian American Foundation.
"I was shocked and I feel very grateful for getting in and being able to go to Moscow," Anna said in an interview with Patch. "It’s an experience that I’ll never forget."
Those who have seen during the holiday season may recognize Anna as a principal in the Seiskaya Ballet of St. James: over the past few years, she has danced roles including Sugarplum, Dewdrop, and Chocolate Soldier. She has also appeared as White Swan in Seiskaya's production of Swan Lake.
"You can’t really describe it, but every time you perform you feel kind of powerful," she said. "When you get to play a certain character when you’re dancing, it’s truly special."
At 16, Anna has already spent nine years studying ballet, inspired by seeing a Seiskaya production of The Nutcracker at age 7. She first tried gymnastics, but soon switched to ballet.
Last summer, Anna suffered a major setback: during a rigorous class, she fell while performing a step-over pirouette. She suffered three fractures and a torn ligament, and was off her feet for months. She was finally able to begin dancing again this past February, and faced an uphill battle due to muscle atrophy.
"My dreams were kind of crushed for a moment," she said. "I didn’t know if I would be able to handle the amount of ballet anymore. Every ballet dancer’s dream is to become a professional and be with a company."
Anna hopes to one day dance as part of American Ballet Theater. For now, though, she's busy prepping for her trip to Russia. She leaves July 14.
"I’m learning a little bit on my own the language, basic communications," Anna said. "I’ve been catching up with the politics and current events that are happening in Russia. I’ve been making sure that I have all my things packed and ready to go, and psychologically I’m going to be ready to not be homesick."
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