Famed dance institute holds tryouts for kids in Queens (WITH VIDEO)

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Photo gallery

Six-year-old Maria Kiforuk is examined by School of American Ballet faculty member Garielle Whittle. Photo by Christina Santucci
Six-year-old Natalia Fazio of Flushing skips across the floor during the audition. See more photos on Page 46. Photo by Christina Santucci
Jeremy Muse of Rosedale waits for his turn. He is the last of the applications to audition. See more photos on Page 46. See more photos on Page 38. Photo by Christina Santucci
School of American Ballet full-time faculty members Katrina Killian (c.) and Garielle Whittle test the flexibility of applicant Elizabeth Retter, 10, during tryouts for the school, held at the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Astoria. Photo by Christina Santucci
Miosori Polanco, 9, of Jamaica points her toes. Photo by Christina Santucci
Rachel Aquino, 6, Forest Hills, NY twirls across the floor. Photo by Christina Santucci
Children wave to the parents as they walk upstairs to the auditions. Photo by Christina Santucci
Patrick Wong of Flushing breaks into tears. Photo by Christina Santucci
One dancer's foot is tested. Photo by Christina Santucci
Dancers look out at their parents several floors below. Photo by Christina Santucci
Ashton (l.) and Alexus Lee of Elmhurst wait their turn. Photo by Christina Santucci
Several dozen dancers auditioned for the School of American Ballet. Photo by Christina Santucci
Participants wait their turn. Photo by Christina Santucci
Elizabeth Tang, 8, of Fresh Meadows stretches before her turn. Photo by Christina Santucci
Full-time faculty member Garielle Whittle bends back one dancer's toes. Photo by Christina Santucci
Sydney Moy flies through the air. Photo by Christina Santucci
Paige Sherman, 8, shows off her moves. Photo by Christina Santucci
Dancers wait to be evaluated. Photo by Christina Santucci
Caroline Xiong looks in the mirror. Photo by Christina Santucci
Demitrios Retzios of Astoria helps his daughter Antoula pin on her number. Photo by Christina Santucci
Emilie Cantante, 6, of Flushing auditions. Photo by Christina Santucci

Hundreds of pint-sized dance hopefuls bounded into Astoria for a free audition with the School of American Ballet at the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts Sunday.

Children packed into the lobby, at 35-12 35th Ave., and were assigned numbers and placed in groups. Smiling and laughing, the youngsters danced, twirled and left the worrying to mom and dad.

“There are some nerves, but they seem like they’re having a lot of fun with this,” said Becca Retter, who brought her daughters Liza, 10, and Bella, 7, from their home in Rego Park.

Retter and her husband Thommie are both dancers as well, and they know that placing too much pressure on young minds can do more harm than good.

“We’re giving them as many classes and opportunities as we can without pushing them so they don’t get burned out,” she said.

The auditions, held by the School of American Ballet, were a great opportunity for those who attended. Professional dancers from SAB were on hand looking for young girls and boys with a passion for focused ballet dancing — and those selected would have a chance to enroll at the famed dance school this fall.

And getting into the school is just the beginning: New York-area children enrolled at SAB are featured annually in the New York City Ballet’s production of “The Nutcracker.”

After they were assigned their numbers, the children were taken upstairs — while the parents stayed behind — in groups of close to 40, where they met Garielle Whittle and Katrina Killian, former dancers with New York City Ballet.

The instructors called up each child individually, examining posture, flexibility and discipline.

“Every child is different, with different skill sets,” said Whittle. “It’s important to judge each one on an individual basis.”

One of those children, 6-year-old Maria Kiforuk jumped as her named was called and skipped up toward the two instructors. Maria’s mother, Liliya, had snuck upstairs to the studio moments before her daughter’s name was called. With a combination of stealth and perfect timing, Liliya was able to watch her daughter bend and flex for the instructors.

“My heart is really going at it,” said Liliya Kiforuk. “I’m so nervous, I can hardly breath.”

When her time with the instructors was up, Maria skipped back in line without a care in the world. Before running off to report back to her husband, Liliya Kiforuk said ballet helps to round out a child’s education.

“It provides discipline a kid her age needs,” said Liliya Kiforuk, whose daughter attends Dance Source Studio in Rego Park. “It also helps with memory. She has to remember certain routines and that helps with education. With each routine her memory is being trained.”

Of course, there are some days her daughter doesn’t want to leave her toys, but Kiforuk said mopey frowns almost always transform into singing and dancing on the way to class.

“On good days she can’t wait to leave the house,” she said. “She sings and dances in the car.”

The young Kiforuk, and the rest of the aspiring ballet dancers, will find out if they made the cut in an e-mail notification May 21.

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4546.

Updated 10:23 am, May 13, 2012
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