Wiltonian Erin Troost may only be 17 years old, but she’s already made her own dreams come true. Having fallen in love with ballet at the age of three, she’s found success as a student at the Nutmeg Conservatory for the Arts, a residency school in Torrington, CT that immerses students in intensive dance study and training and also prepares them for college.
“I always grew up dancing and it always consumed my days. I would go to school and afterwards I would go and dance. I think I as 13 when I realized I wanted to become a dancer and really pursue it as profession,” Erin says. She first started dancing with Christine Titus at Wilton’s Conservatory of Dance. “I took every class I could for my age and level, I did it all–ballet, jazz funk, lyrical, contemporary, tap–all styles.”
Being “really into” dance is one thing; being quite talented and having that something special in order to pursue it with such intensity is entirely something else. Titus says she saw it in Erin early on, and was thrilled that her student sought out more intense learning.
“She had a spark when she danced, you could tell this was her passion. You always want to encourage that when you see that. You see kids having fun, but it’s different and there’s only a few that come through like that, where you know they can do something with this and it’s rare. I was very sad to see her leave but very happy for her to be on this path that’s going to lead her to have a career in this, which is very near and dear to my heart. To make sure this is her livelihood is very exciting for a dance teacher, to see your students go and do that. Very few people have that drive and passion to go that far with it. And she’s a really hard worker and dedicated and all that good stuff you need to be to survive in this industry. She’s going to do great,” says Titus.
Leaving Wilton High School to start attending the Nutmeg Conservatory in her junior year was a tough decision for Erin and her family. Not only is it a boarding school, but it involves making a commitment at a young age to a very demanding way of life, both physically and emotionally. That choice, says Erin, all came from her.
“It took a while to convince them that I should go there and my mom didn’t want me to live away from home, but I went to their summer intensive and came back and said I really wanted to go to this school. I enjoyed it so much and I knew that it would be really good for me and my career. No one could persuade me to go a different way. I knew I would see my friends again and I knew I wasn’t missing high school, I was there for two years and I knew I wanted a new experience,” she says.
Her friends and parents have all been supportive, although Erin’s mom, Leslie, says seeing her youngest leave home two years earlier than expected, was definitely difficult.
“She was really passionate about it when she went and did that four week intensive. Before we left to go home Erin had gone up to the artistic director and told her she really want to be there. She was my youngest and I didn’t think she was going to be leaving that soon. But I think she really felt strongly that this is what she wanted to do professionally and she was at the point that she really needed to make the move in order to make this happen. They all want to graduate from high school and get their college degree but with ballet, they have to have a certain amount of training,” Leslie explains.
That training is incredibly hard, and it requires a tremendous amount of discipline. Mornings (9 a.m.-1 p.m.) are for school work, and the classes the students take are all online. After lunch the approximately 30 students start dance classes at 2:30 p.m., dancing until 8 p.m.. Those dance hours can be filled with technique classes or point class, or possibly rehearsal if the school is prepping for a big performance.
It does mean dorm living, of course for the 30 girls and boys who are part of the residency program. According to Erin’s mom, Leslie, there are students from 17 states and Canada taking part. “It’s really interesting, who would think because it’s upstate CT, but they draw from all over the United States. One of Erin’s roommates is from Tennessee…”
Attending the Nutmeg Conservatory has also given Erin the opportunity to meet some very interesting and well known people in the dance world, including Kirk Peterson and Eleanor D’Antuono, who are both former principal dancers with the American Ballet Theater (ABT). Erin recently got to meet Misty Copeland, who is a very well-known principal dancer with ABT right now.
With this last year in high school, Erin is, of course, looking ahead. Her next steps, once she graduates high school, involve college and more dance.
“I’m applying to Butler University, University of Utah, University of Cincinnati and Marymount Manhattan College because they all have some of the best ballet and dance programs. I’m applying to colleges as well as auditioning for companies. I want to be successful dancing with a company and just being happy and doing what I’ve always wanted to do, performing the roles I’ve always wanted to perform,” she says.
Like many other people, her former teacher Chris Titus is eager to see what Erin’s future holds.
“You only have a handful of all the girls that come through here that go and do this so that’s exciting for us as their teachers to see and know that we sparked that joy in her. I’m so excited for her and all the possibilities. I can’t wait to hear about her and so excited to see what’s next.”