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The strength of our Jewish community is our membership. We are blessed by so many warm and caring individuals and families that make our community a great place to live and work. Our member Q & A section seeks to tap into that community spirit and find the mitzvot motivation of our members.

Dina Bilofsky is a graduate of the Greater Altoona Community Sunday School. She was recently interviewed by Allison Cohen. Photo credit to Reed Hutchinson.

           
 
   
     
   
 

Dina Ballerina
How a Small Town Dancer Achieved Her Dream

by Allison Cohen

She walks like a duck but looks like a super model. She is not your average 20-year-old girl. She does not attend a university. She is anything but lazy. Dina Bilofsky is a professional ballerina in the Los Angeles Ballet Company.

I spoke to Dina fresh off the first weekend of the Los Angeles Ballet’s Swan Lake performances. She describes the production as her hardest to date. There are four acts in the show and Dina has a part in every one. Particularly difficult for her are acts two and four. She is part of the swan corps, a role she describes as having to act as a “ballet robot.” Eighteen girls, all different shapes and heights, must mirror each other, on one leg, nonetheless. Act three is more fun. Dina has the part of a Spanish performer, which, she comments, is “very free moving with an attitude.”

Born in Philadelphia and raised in Hollidaysburg, PA, Dina now lives in Los Angeles. She began her ballet training at the age of three at a school in Philadelphia. When she was four, her family moved to Hollidaysburg where she started attending classes at the Allegheny Ballet Company in Altoona, PA. The small town company has produced a surprising number of young talents, including Jared and Tyler Angle of the New York City Ballet and, of course, Dina Bilofsky of the Los Angeles Ballet.

Despite the small town location of the Allegheny Ballet Company, it is not a coincidence that the school has such a high professional success rate. Dina names her first teacher, Deborah Anthony, as the most influential person in her ballet career. Dina says of Deborah, “I really believe if you’re drilled with excellent technique at a young age it will carry you.”

Dina began her professional training at the Burklyn Ballet in Vermont for a summer at the age of 12. At 14, she took summer classes at the School of American Ballet in New York City and at 15, she attend the Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle. After her freshman year of high school, Dina made the decision to make ballet her life, and began homeschooling to allot more time to her training.

Her sacrifice paid off when the School of American Ballet asked Dina to stay in New York City year round in 2008 at the age of 16. Studying at the prestigious School of American Ballet, the official school of the New York City Ballet, is a feat in itself. Between 2,000 and 3,000 dancers audition for their summer program each year, 200 are selected to study for the summer and only 15-20 dancers are asked to attend for the year.

Other than traditional dance training, Dina’s Jewish education prepared her for the ultra competitive ballet world. Attending summer camp starting at the age of nine gave Dina a sense of independence and coping skills, while preparing for her Bat Mitzvah at the age of 13 gave her dedication and grounding. These traits have gotten her to the place she is today.
Dina always knew what she wanted. “I had to decide, am I going to hang out with friends or am I going to study and pursue ballet? And by the time I was 12, I knew what I wanted to do.” For a 12-year-old girl in middle school, this was a mature decision to make. While her friends went to parties and school dances, Dina went to dance class.

“There was not one specific point that I realized she wanted to become a ballet dancer. It was years of her dedicating herself to ballet that I knew she would one day become a professional dancer,” says Dina’s mother, Kara Bilofsky, as she launches into a story about Dina’s independence, determination, and perfectionism. Kara vividly remembers Dina taking control in small ways, like doing her own hair, because Kara’s buns were not good enough for her, and sewing her point shoes by herself.

Dina’s boyfriend, coworker and fellow dancer, Alex Castillo, 21, can see the same fire in Dina. “Dina is a strong, ambitious dancer. [She] has a competitive edge that she doesn’t tend to hide well,” he says with a laugh. Alex occasionally points out a flaw in Dina’s dancing for her to work on, but more often she challenges herself to improve on her ballet by moving rhythmically and precisely to the music and improving on jumps, turns and balance.

Dina’s passion and determination are evident to everyone around her. Christopher McDaniel, 21, a friend and coworker of Dina’s at the Los Angeles Ballet, observes, “When she believes that she deserves better, she has the tendency to prove [it].”

 “I was the one who pushed myself throughout everything. It was what I wanted. I was self-motivated,” says Dina. Years of hard work have paid off. Her career is starting out strong at the Los Angeles Ballet. After her first season of employment at the company, she was promoted to a soloist role in the Nutcracker. Last season, Dina preformed in the corps de ballet as the role of a snowflake and a flower. This season, she was granted the soloist role of a Spanish dancer in addition her snowflake and flower roles.

The road to becoming a professional ballerina was not an easy one. Movies like Black Swan are definitely an exaggeration, but represent some of the real challenges in the ballet world. The level of commitment and personal and physical strength are enough to crush anyone’s dreams. Not Dina Bilofsky’s.

Dina admits, “You have to be a little crazy to do what we do,” but it is all worth it in her eyes. Dina thrives on the constant struggle for perfection and the gratifying feeling of accomplishment. Most of all, she loves the rush of performing in front of an audience.

“I always cry when I start to watch her; she just brings tears to my eyes because she always knew she would be a professional dancer and is accomplishing her goals,” says Kara. That is the same confidence and determination that makes Dina so beautiful to watch on stage. Apart from her obvious skill and grace, her presence commands attention.

Alex sums it up well: “A majority of people don’t even make it to this level. Dancers spend so much of their lives training to get here and it’s sad when they don’t. She did and she should be proud of herself everyday.”

It is with pride and confidence that Dina states, “All this hard work, everything that I have given up and sacrificed was for a reason… Even when my days are super long and intense and my body is in pain, I am so satisfied doing what I do. I can’t imagine doing any other job and feeling as pleased as I do when I’m dancing.”

           
  Past Member Q&A's