Minot dancer Bolshoi bound

Sixteen-year-old Chloe Ondracek is about to embark on a Russian adventure.

Ondracek, the daughter of Jim and Pam Ondracek, of Minot, will spend six weeks this summer studying Russian language, culture and ballet at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow.

She is one of 15 teenagers across the country who were selected this year for the National Security Language Initiative For Youth Program, which is funded by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Other sponsors are the Russian American Foundation and Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet Academy.

She is also the second North Dakota teenager chosen for the program. Last year, Anja Selland, from Rugby, was chosen from the program. Both girls had been students of Rinat Mouzafarov at the Institute of Dance and Ballet Theater in Minot since they were very young.

“I wouldn’t be the person I am today without him,” said Ondracek.

Mouzafarov insists that his students show respect and discipline and work hard in school as well as in his ballet classes. He said he is proud that two of his students have been chosen for this program and views it as a great honor.

Ondracek, who has been home schooled by her parents, graduated from her home school program this spring. She has traveled abroad with her parents so often that her mother, Pam, said she has probably used up the pages in more than one passport.

Ondracek has been taking classes at Minot State University this year while completing her senior year of high school. She said she is interested in eventually pursuing an advanced degree in mathematics. Recipients of the NSLI-Y scholarships must be good students and demonstrate an interest in Russian language and culture as well as good ballet technique.

Ondracek will also attend a three-week ballet intensive at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy Summer Intensive in New York City before traveling on to Moscow for the NSLI-Y program. The NSLI-Y scholarship covers all costs associated with the program, including domestic and international travel; tuition and related academic preparation; language testing; educational and cultural activities focused on language learning; orientations; meals; and accommodations.

Among other requirements, scholarship recipients must be U.S. citizens, be between the ages of 15 and 18, have at least a 2.5 GPA, be enrolled in high school at the time they apply, and be enrolled in the Bolshoi Ballet Academy Summer Intensive in New York City. They also cannot be related to someone who works for one of the sponsoring organizations, have previously participated in an NSLI-Y program, speak Russian well or be a dual citizen of Russia and the U.S.

The scholarship program was started as a U.S. government initiative in 2006. Its goal is to develop young Americans who have an interest in and knowledge of foreign languages and cultures and can participate in a dialogue in private, academic or government sectors, according to a press release.

NSLI-Y is administered by the American Councils for International Education in cooperation with AFS-USA, American Cultural Exchange Service, Americans Promoting Study Abroad, AMIDEAST, iEARN-USA, Legacy International, Russian American Foundation and the University of Delaware. Applications for 2013-2014 NSLI-Y programs will be available at (www.nsliforyouth.org) in the early fall. The Russian American Foundation NSLI-Y program has a separate application process, which can be found on its website at (www.bolshoiballetacademy.com).

Ballet Magnificat Summer Intensive

Another of Mouzafarov’s students, Ashton Cassim, has received a full tuition scholarship to the Ballet Magnificat Summer Intensive in Jackson, Miss. While several of Mouzafarov’s other students also were accepted to summer intensives, Mouzafarov said it is rare for a student to receive a full scholarship.

Cassim, 14, has been taking dance lessons since he was 6 and said he just loves to dance.

“It kind of relieves you of everyday life,” he said.

He enjoys ballet, but said he’s also looking forward to doing other types of dance, from jazz to modern to hip hop, at Ballet Magnificat.

Like Ondracek, Cassim said the strict discipline that Mouzafarov requires of his students has carried over into other aspects of his life. He knows how to schedule his activities and get his homework done on time, too. Cassim just finished the eighth grade at Jim Hill Middle School and will be attending Minot High School-Central Campus in the fall.

Cassim said he is interested in eventually pursuing a career as an architect, but plans to keep making dance a part of his life, too.