Talented teen dancer finds community support


Sixteen-year-old Linda Steele has been busy rehearsing at the Marin School of the Arts at Novato High School for an upcoming school program, but she's also privately choreographing her own routine for a show in Marin County that could give her national exposure.

"It's a really, really big opportunity. I'm really excited about it," says Linda.

She's referring to the Ebony Fashion Fair which features world famous designers and is celebrating its 50th year. The fashion show is part of Johnson Publishing Company, which publishes Ebony and Jet magazines, among other businesses. Linda will perform solo in front of 2,000 people.

"I'm not exactly sure what it may bring. We'll have to wait and see and hope for the best," says Linda.

She's worked hard to get to this point. Her schedule is grueling with 20 to 25 hours of dance practice five days a week between the Marin School of the Arts and the Marin Ballet, pluse eight hours of dance on Saturday and homework. .

"I train myself now where I'll take a nap from 10:30 at night until 2:00 in the morning and then get up and finish homework, and then stay up and get ready for school and do it all over again," explains Linda.

"She is very focused, she is very disciplined and she's highly successful, not just in this class. She has over a 3.5 grade point average," says Mark Peabody who created the Marin School of the Arts at Novato High School with a state grant in 2001.

The school provides support and resources for talented, motivated students.

Linda has been awarded scholarships with the Marin Ballet and has performed in the Nutcracker. She won summer scholarships for the prestigious Alonzo King Lines Ballet in San Francisco. Last summer, she performed in the Lines Ballet pre-professional program.

However, it hasn't been easy. She's one of nine kids raised by a single mother who is also named Linda. She noticed her daughter's talent at the age of three and nurtured it.

"When a movie would go off, she would run to the television set and while the credits were rolling up, she would start dancing in front of the television," says Linda's mother.

"I met Linda when she was seven years old," says Felecia Gaston who nominated Linda and runs the Performing Stars of Marin Organization in Marin City. It provides scholarships and other resources to low-income and multicultural children from Marin City to Novato.

Performing Stars helped Linda with toe shoes and other expenses that can run into thousands of dollars.

"When she needed help to go to Alonzo King Lines Ballet Company, we solicited support from mutual friends so she could be able to stay on campus at USF," says Gaston.

The event Linda is a part of is a benefit for the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority San Francisco Alumnae Chapter.

"It's predominantly African American women, college educated. One of the things that we are especially proud of, we provide scholarships or award scholarships to a college student for five years," says Elicia Phillips with the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

The partnership has resulted in more than 100 five-year scholarships over the years. Linda will most likely apply for one for herself.

You've heard it said that it takes a village to raise a child. Well, these are some of the people who are helping young Linda realize her dreams, as well as the dreams of a lot of other young people.

"My ultimate dream is to dance professionally for Alonzo King Lines Ballet and to tour the world," says Linda.

Linda, the rising star, may one day shine as a prima ballerina.

The Ebony Fashion Fair is Saturday, April 19, 2008 at the Marin Veterans' Memorial Auditorium at 7:00 p.m. For more information, visit the Web sites below.

Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. San Francisco Alumnae Chapter:

Performing Stars:

Marin School of the Arts:

Ebony Fashion Fair:

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