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Young hopefuls audition in KC for School of American Ballet

They looked much alike, long-limbed and moving nimbly. The girls, and they were mostly girls, wore black leotards and white tights, hair pulled tightly in buns. The boys: black tights and plain white T-shirts.

All were hoping for a spot in the prestigious summer program of the School of American Ballet at Lincoln Center in New York. But first was the audition Sunday at the Kansas City Ballet’s Bolender Center, 500 W. Pershing Road.

Savannah Cox of Kansas City was among the more than 60 dancers from across the Midwest who auditioned in two age groups, 12 to 14 and 15 to 18. Each wore a number just like a running event.

A year ago, Savannah and her mother moved to Kansas City from Reading, Kan., a small town near Emporia, so Savannah could attend the Kansas City Ballet School.

“You try to approach it as you would one of your classes,” said Savannah, 15, about calming the nerves before an audition, just before her group entered the studio. “But sometimes it’s not that easy.”

It’s uncertain how many of the dancers in Kansas City Sunday will be invited to New York for the five-week program, but only about 200 are chosen out of 2,000 who audition nationwide.

Savannah is home-schooled and spends about four hours every school day at ballet school, five hours on Saturday.

“It’s a lot of fun,” she said. “And moving here has been a great experience.”

Bella Schmidt, 14, of Lincoln, Neb., filed out of the center’s studio with the first group to audition and was still pumped — and hopeful.

“At the end we stood in a line for a while as she (SAB faculty member Susan Pilarre) wrote down notes,” Bella said. “Sometimes they just stare at you.”

But that’s all part of it, said Bella, the assessment of physique along with technique, choreography and a host of other factors.

Bella is a member of the Lincoln Midwest Ballet Company and a student at Lincoln Southeast High School. Her ultimate goal? “I want to be a company member of the American Ballet Theatre.”

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