Teen trades school traditions for the grand jeté


Galmont Ballet mistress Lucia Montero perfects the positions of ballet prodigy Maria Slate.

photo by Linda Wiggins

Most 15 year olds look forward to chatting with their friends at school, homecoming and proms, but Maria Slate will sideline such adolescent memories at Viera High School in favor of six-hour work days en pointe to become a working ballerina. And when the Suntree teen comes home, there will be more dancing as her fingers flit across the keyboard attending FLVS virtual school through Brevard public schools.

“It was a hard decision, but if I am to become a professional dancer with a great ballet company, this is what it takes. I've already been training very hard, and it will take more work to become a ballerina, and then is when the real work begins,” Maria said. “High school is a sacrifice I am willing to make.” It is a decision not made lightly by the student or her parents, and both of them are 100 percent on board — after much lobbying by their child prodigy.

Maria Slate of Suntree will give up her traditional high school life to train as a professional ballerina. | PHOTO BY LINDA WIGGINS“Looking to the future, we live in a world where so much is virtual already. She'll still be getting a great education,” her mother Monica Slate said. A teacher at Suntree Elementary School, education is a high priority for Slate and husband Michael's only child.

Days will be spent dancing at Galmont Ballet in Viera, which has a reputation for putting dancers on the boards, as in, getting students placed with dance companies and performing on stage. The school will hold an open house from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, July 9 with free trial classes for students ages 3 to 18. The school's year-round calendar begins in August.

Galmont Ballet Centre for Dance Education was established in 2003 by international ballet master and choreographer Frank Galvez and international ballet mistress and coach Lucia Montero, husband and wife of 30 years. Galmont, a combination of their stage names, offers offers a comprehensive ballet curriculum, performance opportunities and summer programs for children 3 years old and up, teens, and adults. The school offers a Professional Training Program (PTP), in which Maria is enrolled, for dancers 12 to 21 who wish to pursue a professional career. Enrollment in home school or virtual school is a requirement of the intensive program.

Monica Slate, right, adjust's daughter Maria's costume for a performance. | PHOTO BY LINDA WIGGINS

“The United States offers rich opportunities for working ballet dancers. There are more than 3,000 professional ballet companies,” said Galvez, born and trained in Cuba. Montero is from Venezuela and trained throughout South America.

“There is a perception that the best dancers come from all over the world. While that may be true, the truth also is that they are all working in the United States, because this is the place you make the most money,” Galvez said.

Of the couple's three children, one, Daliana Gutierrez, 20, is a professional ballet dancer, with the Washington Ballet in D.C. A son is a music producer and another daughter is a journalist tackling tough political topics in South America. For Montero, what's good for her own children is great for any child who has the talent and determination to succeed.

“Ballet is a great living, a great way of life that will keep you young while you make your dreams come true.”

For more information on Galmont, go to galmontballet.com.