“Watch that back foot! Keep that ankle straight! Extend your elbows! And make sure to stretch those knees!” shouts Rosemary Tall-DeHart, instructor at London Dance Academy, as 17-year-old high school senior Halie Scaletta and four other dancers practice pirouetting en pointe.
Ballet practice has been part of Scaletta’s everyday life since she was 3. She had attended the Academy of Ballet, then enrolled in Tall-DeHart’s academy in 2009.
“Halie has done an outstanding job at the Academy,” Tall-DeHart says. “Not only has she shown great passion and skill in ballet, but she also excels in character, free movement, lyrical, jazz and even tap dancing.
“She has worked very hard to improve her technical placement in ballet under a most critical eye,” Tall-DeHart says. “She thrives on constructive criticism and that has gotten her very far.”
After an evening rehearsal of classical ballet, Scaletta sometimes drives home blasting Busta Rhymes’ music and krumping – a form of street dancing – along on the way. During her energetic car ride, she thinks of new hip-hop choreography she could teach to the Dance II class at Coronado High School.
“I love ballet because it’s so classical, delicate and such an art form,” Scaletta says. “It’s the best workout I could ask for, and there’s always something for me to improve on. It breaks out my girly side with pink and tutus and pointe shoes. Hip-hop, on the other hand, is fierce and hype and strong. It’s so empowering and very energetic and it’s just so much fun.
“Both of these qualities are, I guess, what I find in myself, too. I can be delicate and classical, but other times I’m high-energy and powerful. So in a way they balance each other out.”
In addition to being a dancer, Scaletta is a photographer, starting when she was 13. She considers it a passion that has been passed down from previous generations.
“My grandfather had his own photography business,” she says. “When my dad was a kid, he would help him on weddings or take care of some darkroom stuff. I got into photography on my own, and it was almost eerie to everyone when they realized it was a passion of mine like my grandfather’s.”
Scaletta’s passion has been nationally recognized through avant-garde portraits shot for contests such as the SkillsUSA Photography Competition. She won first place in the state competition, landing her in the national conference in Kansas City, Mo., last June, where she finished 12th in the country.
“I had no intention of even winning state so I was really proud of myself for getting so far,” Scaletta says. “The experience has given me more motivation for upcoming photo competitions as well.”
Since February 2011, Scaletta has been using her talents to her advantage. She created her own photo business, capturing weddings, school dances, headshots, senior pictures and other events.
“I absolutely love shooting in the field,” Scaletta says. “Knowing that these pictures of people smiling and laughing and having a good time will be captured for them to enjoy for their memories, I know that it’s all worth it. This is a passion of mine. Even my friends say that my eyes light up every time I take pictures.”
She hopes to hone her skills for a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in photography, leaning toward designing advertisements and shooting seasonal campaigns for designer brands such as Guess, Dior and Chanel.
“Being able to be a part of that is at the top of my life goal list, she says. “I even cover every open space on my bedroom walls with all of my favorite ad campaigns at the beginning of each season. Right now my favorites are Fendi and Edun.”
She is one step closer to her goal, having been accepted to the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York – her dream school.
“I got a text from my mom telling me that I got a letter from them. I told her to open it. And when she texted back saying that I got in, I literally danced all around my physics teacher’s classroom. Then after class, I raced down to my photo teacher’s room and yelled to him that I got in. I was absolutely ecstatic.”
Photography teacher Tony Flanagan says he believes Scaletta has a bright future in photography.
“The three words I would describe Halie as are self-starter, involved and magnetic,” Flanagan says. “In my class, she is excellent, always on top of her game. It’s almost as if she doesn’t have to worry about anything. By the time an opportunity for her to be successful has come up, she has already set herself up for it. I am beyond proud of her. I’m bragging about her to everybody.”
Not only is Scaletta immersed in her arts, but she is also involved at Coronado. She is vice president of LEO Club, a community service club fostering Leadership, Experience and Opportunity, and the co-president of National Arts Honor Society, an exclusive arts club.
In LEO Club, she plans group community service projects and is the main coordinator of Culture Shock, a multicultural talent show put together by the club to raise money for international charities. In the honor society, she creates art with a particular theme to assemble a gallery every quarter.
“I love both of them,” she says. “Last summer in NAHS, I got us our own gallery space at First Friday downtown and we showed our art to real professionals, which was very exciting. LEO Club is full of great kids who always have fun no matter what community service event we do.
“It’s rewarding to know I’m part of a national organization that constantly helps the community. I am so excited to do Culture Shock this year, knowing that we’ll be helping such a wonderful cause.”
Scaletta looks back at these accomplishments, which remind her that diligence and persistence pay off.
“I think the biggest inspiration for anybody is yourself,” she says. “You can always look at what you’ve done and say, ‘I want to do more things like that’ or ‘I want to do better than that.’ That’s why I strive to do my best.”R-Jeneration