At 5’9”, Casely Kraft stands taller than most female ballet dancers, but a little thing like height is not stopping this talented 17-year-old ballerina. While there has historically been an “ideal” physique in classical ballet, dance companies today are increasingly rejecting these old standards and prioritizing talent above all else. Casely Kraft is a perfect example.
In addition to earning scholarships to multiple prestigious summer programs, Casely has also been accepted into the trainee program at the renowned Joffrey Ballet. Locally, she has danced in The Nutcracker for many years and has also appeared in The Little Mermaid, Cinderella, and most recently, Beauty and the Beast.
Over her performing years, Casely has studied at the St. Augustine Dance Conservatory and The Perla School, and she transferred to Pedro Menendez High School in January of her junior year. Now, as Casely finishes up a summer intensive program at the Kirov Academy of Ballet in Washington DC, she is setting her sights on two new endeavors – senior year at Pedro Menendez and the transfer of her dance studies to Abella’s School of Dance.
Casely earned her Kirov scholarship by auditioning at the Southeastern Regional Ballet Association (SERBA) festival this year. However, it was last year’s SERBA achievement (when she earned a full scholarship to Louisville Ballet School’s summer intensive program) which holds a special place in her heart. Casely recalls, “When I received my scholarship, it wasn’t just me. All of my friends in my dance school received scholarships. It was humbling to be standing with them and realize how much we accomplished together.”
Casely’s gratitude doesn’t end with her fellow performers. She credits her family – mom, grandmother, older brother Simon, sister Teagan, and stepsisters Tabi and Miranda – for playing a huge role in her dance career. “They are my biggest fans and my mom is always there for me. My grandmother is always the one in the background helping me.”
Though her wide success might lead some to believe that her life is consumed by training, Casely’s interests and hobbies cover a wide range. She loves the beach, hanging out with friends downtown, and is fascinated with cosmetology and experimenting with new makeup palettes. In her downtime, Casely also enjoys cultivating her intellectual side. She professes, “I love reading about world events and I have always been encouraged to speak my mind in regards to politics and environmental issues.” She has a deep appreciation for learning and excels in English and History.
There’s no doubt that young Casely has a bright future ahead of her in ballet. She hopes to dance in a company one day and her dream role would be in Balanchine’s Nutcracker. Still, her goals for the future are wisely diversified. She explains, “Dance will always be in my future but I would love to double major in dance and criminology. Pre-Law is my long term goal outside of dance.”
Casely is a refreshing and inspiring example of how the power of hard work and talent can burst through stereotypes. Her message to other young dancers is, “Do not stress about appearance. Try to be you and stay true to you. Work YOUR best. Do not compare yourself to others.”
Photography by Brian Miller