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Mahopac sophomore dances through life

Posted Monday, October 17, 2011 by Sara Dunn
Mahopac sophomore dances through life

by Sara Dunn

March 02, 2011

Directly following the completion of her Regents exams this June, Mahopac High School sophomore Lauren Citarella will be heading off to New York City for a two-week intensive camp at the Joffrey Ballet School after auditioning for a spot at the prestigious institution.

"We are absolutely thrilled," her mother Sue Citarella said. "It's such a wonderful opportunity for her to develop as a dancer."

It's the next "grand pas" – or big step – for the young dancer who first put on ballet shoes when she was only a preschooler.

"Ever since I was 4, I just wanted to dance, so every opportunity I get, I am happy to have," Lauren said. "I've stuck with it because I love it."

Since that age, she has always been enrolled at one dance school or another. That slate currently involved five classes a week at which she takes on tap, jazz, point, modern, Indian, Hawaiian and hip hop dance lessons.

Lauren's schedule also includes many hours practicing with the Mahopac High School dance team, which performs during the half-times at basketball games.

"It's exciting to have a new aspect of half-time," she said of the hip hop routines the team performs. "Everybody really supports us and expects us to do well."

Getting involved in dance – and putting so much work into it – has offered up other opportunities.

Over the past four years, she has performed in productions of "The Nutcracker" and "The Wizard of Oz" with professional dancers at the Yorktown Stage Theater, where she also has worked as a camp counselor for the past three years.

Lauren said another inspiring experience was when she signed up for the "Rockette Experience," in which she got to spend the day with members of the famous dance troupe at their studios at Radio City Music Hall.

Her parents have been supportive throughout her dance pursuits.

"When she started doing "The Nutcracker," I would help the school out as a stage hand," her father Rich Citarella said about the production that would travel around the region and offered him an opportunity to stand backstage and watch his daughter at each performance. "It gave us our bonding time."

Despite all the time put into dance, Lauren said she would like to pursue an education in fine arts when she eventually goes off to college. Proof of her artistic eye hangs around the Citarella home. There is the portrait of a tiger which hangs in the entryway of the house, and for which she won a blue ribbon at school, and a rose still-life and Van Gogh-esque painting framed on the family's dining room wall.

"When I go to college, I'm not going to stop dancing; I'm going to keep going with it, just not as vigorously as I am now," she said.

And just like she will do at that time, right now Lauren must balance her love of dance with her academics.

"It can be frustrating and stressful, but I get through it because I have a lot of support," she said, adding that her best friend Nicole Borean, who isn't all that into dance, still makes sure to attend all of her performances.

During the time she is at the Joffrey Camp, she will reside in a dorm either in the East Village or on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. The school relies on the buddy system, rather than on chaperones, to get to and from camp and back to their dorms.

"I'm nervous, but I'm also really excited to meet a lot of new people," said Lauren, who already made two friends at the auditions, one from Syracuse and another from Long Island, who she keeps in touch with online.

Her father said he wasn't too worried about how she will navigate her time away from home.

"I think she'll do well. She likes being in the city," he said. "Being in the two-week intense program at Joffrey will be a great experience and will help her grow into a mature young lady."

Reporter Sara Dunn can be reached at dunn@halstonmedia.com.

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