Six-year-old Emma Khoury is a dancer. She recently performed with her class at the Madison Area YMCA’s School of Performing Arts Year-End performance, “When I Grow Up” that took place at The College of St. Elizabeth’s Annunciation Center.
The first grader, who began her journey with dance at the Madison Area YMCA, auditioned and was accepted this spring to The School of American Ballet (SAB) at Lincoln Center, which is a classical ballet school and is the associate ballet school of the New York City Ballet. The Harding resident was one of about 100 children who was selected from thousands of children who auditioned in the 6-10 years of age category, the youngest age group that the school accepts.
“We look at this as such a gift and an accomplishment that she got this far,” says Emma’s mother, Rebecca. “She didn’t even know she was auditioning. We didn’t want to teach her about being competitive. We told her she would go in and show others how beautiful she could move,” says Rebecca, explaining that movement and body awareness is an important aspect at this age. “She went in and danced her little heart out.”
Rebecca explains that her daughter has a natural ability for ballet since she can point her foot almost to the ground which is special and rare. She also explains the remarkable circumstances in which Emma lives and dances. Emma is 80% deaf in her right ear and 40% deaf in the other. Seven months ago, she received her first set of hearing aids. They’re a bubble gum shade of pink.
Emma can hear at a conversational level. She is unable to hear whispering and if she is in a room with background noise, she can’t hear at all. “When dancing, she can’t hear some tones, but she feels the movement. She can feel the noises and feels the rhythm to move with the music,” Rebecca says.
Rebecca, her husband, Michael, Emma and Sadie who is 4, joined the Madison Area YMCA five years ago. The girls have been enrolled in performing arts, swimming and gymnastics classes.
Rebecca says that Emma will not stop taking dance classes at the Madison Area YMCA, which has included ballet and hip hop. “This is her safe place. There’s a comfort here. It’s like home—full of caring, kind people who know our kids and care about them. There’s definitely a real sense of community,” she says, noting that she owes the Y’s Performing Arts team a tremendous amount of thanks in teaching Emma to fall in love with dance.
“The Y’s facilities are so nice,” Rebecca says, adding that the location is perfect. She and Michael, who work in Manhattan, take the train to Madison and their nanny brings the girls to meet them at the Y for some family time in the pool. The couple also works out at the Y while the girls spend some time playing in Kids Central. “The girls run around and get their energy out while we work out. Everybody is getting healthier and the girls are ready for bed when we get home,” she says.
In the fall, Emma will travel to the Upper West side of Manhattan twice a week for SAB classes. Being part of the school makes her eligible to audition for every show that the New York City Ballet produces.
“The most important thing at this point is that Emma is learning to love dance,” says Rebecca. “The Y and the Performing Arts School have opened her world to be creative, expressive and emotional. And we love it.”