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Mattituck teen accepted into prestigious American Ballet Theatre program

In just 14 years, Alexis Stavrinos has gone through 10 years of ballet classes, countless hours of private instruction and hundreds of pairs of canvas slippers and pointe shoes. On a cold January morning, all of her hard work boiled down to one audition at the American Ballet Theatre in New York City.

She stood on a line that snaked around the block, wide-eyed with butterflies in her stomach. Inside, judges circled the studio, watching a sea of dancers in black leotards warm up with pliés and tendus at the barre.

“[The judges] look at your technique. And they see your passion for dance — if you’re right for the [Summer] Intensive,” Alexis recalled during an interview Monday. “I do get jitters, but once I’m [in the audition room,] I’m having fun,” she said.

Then, on Jan. 14, which also happened to be her 14th birthday, Alexis received the exciting news: acceptance into the prestigious ABT Summer Intensive. In July, she will begin the three-week program at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa, dorming with other dancers ages 11 to 17 and taking classes taught by ABT faculty and distinguished guest instructors.

The Mattituck eighth-grader said she’s most looking forward to honing her skills and broadening her horizons beyond the North Fork, where she has studied ballet with Cheryl Rains at the Moya Strast Ballet Theater on Pike Street since she was 4.

“I did it for fun, and around 11 I started taking it seriously,” Alexis said, recalling the first day she went on pointe. “I was ready. [Ms. Rains] prepared us with strength training.”

It was clear from the moment she executed her first arabesque at the barre that her posture was rare and polished for a beginner.

Ms. Rains, a Russian-trained dancer, has been teaching for over 30 years. Sometimes, she said, you can “just tell,” when a student is destined for bigger things. “[Alexis] has a natural ability,” she said in an interview Tuesday. “She’s got a good brain for remembering the steps. If you give her corrections, she’s able to fix it on the first try. She’s a very good student, and a beautiful dancer.”

Though Alexis has tried other styles of dance — tap, Irish step — ballet is where she found her passion. “[Irish step] was not my thing,” she said, laughing. “It’s straight and stuff. I like the grace [of ballet] and how you can tell a story with your movements.”

The 5-foot, 7-inch dancer said her goal is to one day dance professionally with the American Ballet Theatre. She hopes that the Summer Intensive will help her realize that dream.

Last summer, she participated in a six-week intensive program hosted by the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Connecticut. Though she was invited back, Ms. Rains encouraged her to try a New York-based company. “It’s exciting. It’s a really good opportunity for her to get some contacts in New York,” her teacher said.

Both Alexis and her brother, Nikolas, 11, who takes hip-hop and jazz dance classes, get their love of dance from their mom, Linda Stavrinos. “I didn’t grow up in the ballet world,” she explained, but has always loved ballroom dancing. 

Ms. Stavrinos is in awe of her daughter’s commitment and supportive of her dream. “Whatever she decides to pursue, I will back her. It’s important to be happy and love what you do every day,” she said.

Between balancing at least three ballet classes a week, Alexis also plays on the school volleyball team, is a member of the science club and maintains a spot on the high honor roll. “She’s very disciplined,” Ms. Rains said of her student.

If Alexis does make it into the company at ABT, she won’t be the first from Mattituck. Cory Stearns, 33, is currently a principal dancer with the company. He left Mattituck High School at age 15 when he was offered a scholarship to study at the Royal Ballet School in London.

“Mattituck is a small town. It’s close to the city — and I’d go there occasionally to take classes on the weekends, but [London] was way outside of the box for me,” he said when reached by phone Tuesday.

He said that Summer Intensives, such as the one offered by ABT, are opportunities to receive great training — essential to any dancer. “No matter how much talent you have, if you don’t have good training then you really can’t get very far,” Mr. Stearns said.

Also necessary for someone pursuing a career in dance, he stressed, is passion and a deep appreciation. “I feel so privileged to be able to do this,” Mr. Stearns said, even after 15 seasons. “That feeling has only gotten stronger.”

Speaking of her first intensive training, Alexis said she had a great experience, but summed it up in one word: harsh. “But I kind of liked that. I like when the teachers are … not mean, but strict. You learn more from it.”

Before shipping off to Tuscaloosa, Alexis will perform “Coppélia” with her studio at the Southold American Legion on June 23.

Ms. Stavrinos has been watching her daughter perform there for years. Now a young woman, her mother knows that opportunity will lead Alexis far from the North Fork — bittersweet for any parent, but exciting at the same time.

“I hope to watch Alexis on a bigger stage one day,” she said.

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Photo caption: Alexis Stavrinos is heading to the University of Alabama this summer for the ballet program.

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