Tea the ballerina


courtesy of Tea Pantelic

The Nutcracker season is always the most demanding for the dancers. Sophomore Tea Pantelic landed three roles for this year’s show.

After moving from San Diego to Hinsdale and dancing with Salt Creek Ballet for just over a year, sophomore Tea Pantelic is figuring out what she wants to do in the future.

Costumes, pointe shoes, tights, makeup, and lots and lots of bobby pins is what show day consists of for ballerinas. Bobby pins go missing, tights rip, and costumes needs alterations but the show must go on. Two plus hours of running back and forth backstage to then dancing gracefully on stage. When dancing on stage, trying to hide the fact that you are exhausted and sweating a ton. Why do you do it? Why do you put yourself in that much pain and exhaustion? Well it’s quite simple… it’s because it’s the life you chose and you love it. You wouldn’t have it any other way. Blood, sweat, tears, nothing will stand in the way. You come home from rehearsal and ice your feet to relieve pain from the blisters your pointe shoes gave you, and you want to complain but you don’t, because ballet defines you. Without it, who would you be?

These are the questions and daily experiences of Tea Pantelic,15, who, at such a young age, has seen and experienced it all. She started dancing at the age of three at the San Diego School of Ballet. Her mom took her to dance class because she thought Tea would look cute in a tutu, but it wasn’t just the tutu that caught Tea’s attention. It was the atmosphere, the dancers, the music, the art. She knew it was for her. This is where she belonged and this is what she was supposed to be doing.

courtesy of Tea Pantelic
Pantelic pictured last year when she performed in Salt Creek Ballet’s The Nutcracker for the first time.

“When you really start to take ballet seriously it consumes you, in a good way. You can’t be a normal teenager and hang out with friends because of ballet. Hopefully it’s worth all the sacrifice in the long run,” Tea says.

The summer of 2016 was a time of change for Tea. That summer she moved from San Diego to Hinsdale. After that summer she was to start high school. Going in, not knowing anybody at the school was tough, but she pulled through and things started looking up. She joined Salt Creek, and it wasn’t too hard for her to adjust because she knew how the ballet world worked and the teachers were Russian, so she was familiar with their teaching style. She’s been coached by Russian teachers all her life. She really enjoys dancing at Salt Creek because of her fellow dancers, the teachers, and the overall pleasant atmosphere, not to say that it is easy there. Teachers constantly push the dancers so they reach their full potential, especially when it comes to preparing for The Nutcracker, the show they put on each winter season.

The holiday season is the hardest for the dancers because of the stresses of preparing for The Nutcracker and being in the best shape they could possibly be. When they are off season, the company dancers dance approximately 10 hours a week, but during The Nutcracker they bump it up to 20 hours a week. The process starts early November when they audition for parts. After they have their roles assigned,  the practices and learning the choreography begin. The dancers learn the choreography, the technique that applies to their role, where they are supposed to be on stage, and dancing to the music. This year Tea landed the roles of a party mom in the first scene, a snowflake, a waltz corps, and a Russian. Salt Creek Ballet had three shows at Hinsdale Central on Nov. 25 and 26. These shows usually have the largest turn out because a lot of people in the neighborhood are familiar with it, but they also have shows in Governor’s State and Skokie coming up in the next couple of weeks. 

When The Nutcracker concludes, Tea will continue her yearlong practice as a ballerina. 

“My dream is to continue dancing in college. I’d love to dance at either American Ballet Theatre, San Francisco Ballet, or in New York,” Tea says. “That’s why next year is such a pivotal year for me. The parts I get in next year’s Nutcracker will help me decide whether ballet is something I want to do in life and if I have a chance in being a professional ballerina one day.”