Saddleback College Ballet Instructor, Lacey Yell opens the dance room door to her students and they all scamper in. They shed their street clothes to reveal black leotards and pink leggings. Two male ballet students awkwardly tug their black skin tight leggings into place. Several elegant girls sit on the floor like pale pink lilles scattered on a pond. They tie up satin ballet slipper laces and fix their hair into neat up-do’s.
A buxom ballerina sits in the corner, stretching her short, tan legs. Her name is Hannahleigh Jasmine Garcia. Garcia, 17 stands out from all the rest in a fire engine red leotard. Her curvaceous body sways from left to right as she gets warmed up. Her dynamic brown eyes sparkle with nervous excitement. “Dance is my passion. I like ballet and jazz but my specialty is Hip Hop”, Garcia said through a crimson painted pout.
Garcia first learned Hip-Hop dancing at Oceanside High School as a means to escape the harsh reality of being in foster care. Garcia grew up in Orange County, but bounced around from city to city due to a tumultuous childhood of foster care and abuse. Garcia moved from Oceanside to Mission Viejo when she was fourteen. She will graduate from Access High school in San Juan Capistrano in a couple of months. She is taking Ballet at Saddleback College to earn some quick transferrable high school credits. She will enroll in the Paramedic Program at Saddleback next semester when she turns eighteen.
Garcia has five siblings and currently lives with her mother. “Hannah is so driven and tough. She doesn’t care what people think of her and will stop at nothing to reach her goals. I am so proud of her”, Hannah’s mother, Rosie Perez said. Besides dance Garcia loves to swim and read. Her favorite book is “A Child Called It”, about a desolate little boy in foster care. “I dance because it makes me forget about serious things. It makes me so happy”, Garcia said.
Lacey Yell instructs her ballerinas to get into a circle. The student dancers begin running and leaping to classical piano music. They perform ballet poses upon command ever so naturally and gracefully. They are preparing for their Spring Recital in May. Be sure to stop by PE 301 to get a glimpse of these vivacious young dancers.