Recent home-school graduate Elisha Smith will train this fall with Ballet Magnificat!, a program in Jackson, Miss. CONTRIBUTED

Ballet company welcomes local dancer

Like a lot of recent high school graduates, Elisha Smith of Springfield will be leaving this month to study for the career of his dreams — one that will keep him on his toes.

Smith has been accepted as a trainee with Ballet Magnificat!, a Christian ballet company in Jackson, Miss., where he’ll put all the skills he gained as a student at the Ohio Performing Arts Center to work and find fulfillment for his spiritual beliefs.

“It’s really amazing. They are a great company, and it’s not just that. It’s the ministry they are a part of,” he said.

A home-school student, Smith is the oldest of 10 kids, including several sisters who also perform at OPAI, adopted and foster children.

Like a lot of young boys, Smith originally thought dancing, especially ballet, was for girls. But he warmed to jazz and tap starting out at OPAI under its director, D. Scot Davidge.

Soon Smith would discover intensive ballet was the best basis for all forms of dance and that became his focus.

A Ballet Magnificat! performance of the biblical parable of the “Prodigal Son” clinched his decision to pursue ballet at a higher level. He was encouraged by his mother to attend one of the company’s summer intensive workshops for three consecutive years.

Smith sent in his audition video and was accepted as a trainee. He’ll be there one to four years, possibly becoming a paid member in addition to training.

He is one of only five male dancers accepted. He also plans to take a part-time job.

“The hardest part will be leaving my family. It’s kind of different down in Jackson,” he said. “But I’ll actually downsize from a family of 10. That’s kind of funny.”

Smith said his parents gave their blessing for him to pursue this and his sisters may follow in his dance steps in the near future.

He also appreciates the training he received at OPAI.

“It’s a nice environment, you feel like family here,” Smith said.

Davidge is proud that Smith is among around 30 of his students who have gone on to study or perform at a higher level.

“It’s exciting for Elisha, now is his time,” Davidge said. “He’s about what we do here. Now he’s about to jump off to the best part of his dance career. But I’ll miss him. He was the muscle here.”

Smith said his eventual goal is to become like Davidge and be a dance teacher one day.

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