One out of every five Americans functions with a known disability, according to the US Census. What is a disability? A disability is defined as “a physical or mental condition that limits a person’s movement, senses or activities.”
That very definition almost ended the dancing career of a promising young dancer… Clara Stark.
Clara began her dance training at the tender age of four. Clara, who is now a young 19 years old, recalls, “I was watching a ballet competition on television and I saw the pretty dresses with the pointed shoes and I told my parents that is what I wanted to do.”
Clara trained long hours in Tokyo, Japan for 10 years after that decision. It was the summer of 13th year that she decided she wanted to expand her dance training, and applied to a summer intensive program at the Idylwild Performance Arts Academy in Southern California. Through a series of auditions, classes and training regimens, Clara received a scholarship and financial assistance to complete her high school years training at the prestigious institution.
Clara woke up every day at 3:30 a.m. and was not back in her dorm until 10 p.m. every night, but it was a sacrifice she was willing to make to reach her goals.
After three years of intense academics and dance training, Clara entered her senior year as one of the most promising students Idylwild has produced. She had also placed in the top 3 both regional and national for the Grand Prix of Ballet – the ballet competition known as the Olympics of ballet.
At the height of her senior year, Clara began to notice a significant weight loss. Though not uncommon to dancers, this was accompanied by fatigue, irritability and inability to concentrate. Clara decided to get evaluated.
In her mid year she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, a disease in which the body’s ability to produce or respond to the hormone insulin is impaired, resulting in abnormal metabolism of carbohydrates and elevated levels of glucose in the blood and urine. Clara pushed herself to complete the program and enter the Ballet Program at Butler University where she had won a dance scholarship. Unfortunately, after the first few months, Clara had a difficult time adjusting to her new condition and she made the decision to defer and eventually leave the dance world.
After eight months of rest and rehab, Clara decided to join the ranks of recreational dancing. She began her journey experimenting with dance fitness to gain stamina and strength; yet the competitive dancer in her wanted a challenge. One of her classmates recommended she try the Jazz and Lyrical class at the studio she had selected… Crescendo Dance Academy.
She dropped into a class led by Crescendo’s Artistic Director Elbert Lubas, who quickly noticed her talent and invited her to a Sunday workout. Little did she know that he had wanted to have a few hours to assess her skillset.
Recognizing her ability and training, Elbert offered her a job as his Teaching Assistant and a contract with his dance company, Syncopation Dance Project.
Together Elbert and Clara have worked to increase her strength and skills in dance, while managing her diabetes through planned breaks and consistent evaluations and tests.
“Clara is a one-of-kind dancer,” Elbert says. “Her ability to translate music into a work of art is uncanny.”
Clara enjoys Elbert’s strict yet playful style. Her journey came full circle when Elbert registered her for an Elite Competition and choreographed an emotional debut that tells both a story of strength and perseverance.