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Dance break: Ohio State student puts school on hold to pursue passion

A third-year in dance at Ohio State, Lisa D’Onofrio is a current trainee at Ballet Magnificat, a ministry focused professional dance company in Jackson, Mississippi. Credit: Courtesy of Lisa D’Onofrio

In 2008, Lisa D’Onofrio jumped on stage at a dance competition she wasn’t even a part of, and discovered an art form that would follow her through life.

After finding dance, D’Onofrio’s parents signed her up for ballet technique classes, and over the next several years, she was able to train at several ballet companies across central Ohio, such as the New Albany Ballet Company while she was in elementary school and BalletMet for nearly eight years.

Now a third-year in dance at Ohio State, D’Onofrio is taking a break from her education to partake in the trainee program at Ballet Magnificat, a professional dance company in Jackson, Mississippi.

The program is based on a mission and ministry focus, which works to prepare Christian artists for ministry in its touring companies and in the field of other mission organizations. The trainee program is specifically structured to help dancers between the ages of 17 and 24 achieve their full potential as professionals.

D’Onofrio said she began participating in the trainee program in September 2017, and the program will conclude at the end of the academic year. Due to the specific style of ballet enforced at Ballet Magnificat, applicants must complete the trainee program in order to work with the company.

D’Onofrio attended Ballet Magnificat’s Summer Dance Intensive –– a program that works to foster technical and spiritual training of dancers through specialized class instruction and workshops –– for three years.

The program has been an experience that challenged her both with dance and with lifestyle choices, D’Onofrio said.

“The hardest part about the program so far has been learning the new style of ballet the company does, as well as the life adjustments you have to make when you move to another state,” she said.

The trainee program consists of different ballet technique classes, including pointe, modern and conditioning, as well as the opportunity to perform with the company in events like a spring concert.

Arianna Fine, a fourth-year in dance and D’Onofrio’s classmate, said due to the harsh toll dance takes on the body, she believes it’s important for D’Onofrio to take these opportunities while she is young.

Fine said D’Onofrio’s work with the professional company has not gone unnoticed by her peers.

“The fact that she took time off and trained in ballet is an inspiration to many people here following their dreams as a dancer and any artist,” she said. “She brings a lot of energy [and] she’s always willing to try new things, even if it’s not ballet.”

For D’Onofrio, being a part of the Ballet Magnificat trainee program has had a great impact on her life, and the company’s faith-based aspect is only one of the many reasons, she said.

“I have been able to grow in my faith and my dancing,” D’Onofrio said, “I love the community. This program will help me decide whether dance is in my future or not.”

Through Ballet Magnificat, D’Onofrio said she’ll have many opportunities to use her dance experience, but she still hasn’t chosen what route to take.

“I would love to stay here if that’s what’s in the plan, but I’m open to whatever God has planned for me in my story,” said D’Onofrio.

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