“Matherina” is a term few people use to describe themselves, but over the past four years at UA, Elena Carter has defined what it means to be a mathematician ballerina.
Carter is a graduating senior from Seattle, Washington, pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance and a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics with a minor in finance. She is also an honors student preparing to submit her thesis.
From baby ballet to recently being awarded the as Outstanding Senior in her class, dance has been a part of Carter’s life for as long as she can remember.
“I did preschool baby ballet like everyone else did and then I quit that and switched to competitive hula dancing,” she said. “Growing up, my best friend’s dad was a pilot for Hawaiian Airlines, so he had a connection with a lot of the Hawaiian culture in Seattle and he found a studio for us to take class in.”
After two years of hula dancing, Carter was given the opportunity at age eight to begin her training in ballet at Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle. She was selected through a scholarship program where she left her elementary school twice a week to take a ballet class and then returned to school.
“I would get on a school bus, go take ballet and then go back to school,” Carter said. “That slowly evolved to after school, and two days a week turned to six days a week, so I did that until I was a senior in high school.”
Following her time at PNB, Carter knew she wanted to continue dancing, but also wanted to obtain an academic degree.
“I always knew I wanted to dance and the program here is just so exceptional, but I knew I wanted to have a double major because so many things can go wrong with dance,” she said. “What’s great about U of A is that it’s a conservatory program within a big university, so I’m getting a BFA in dance and I can also get a degree in something academic. That’s why I chose U of A.”
During her time with the UA School of Dance, Carter has particularly enjoyed the people she gets to work with and the performance opportunities she’s been given.
“I love performing with UA Dance because we get really cool rep and the choreography is really fun to dance,” she said. “Most of our shows are sold out, so the audience is really enthusiastic and supportive, and it’s just such an incredible experience to dance onstage in that pretty Stevie Eller [Dance] Theatre.”
Although she will be graduating, Carter has no intention of ending her dance career. She signed a contract with Ballet Nebraska and is moving to Omaha in July.
“I’ve always wanted to be a professional ballerina; it’s just crazy that it’s actually happening,” Carter said.
Growing up, Carter was inspired by professional ballerina Carla Körbes. During her time at UA Carter gained more inspiration from her professor Elizabeth George-Fesch.
“Carla Körbes was always my favorite ballerina growing up because she shows so much emotion when she dances,” Carter said. “Yes, she has perfect technique and a perfect body, but when you’re at that level everyone does; it’s really how her face tells a story while she’s doing it.”
After eight semesters in George-Fesch’s class, Carter still finds room for improvement and inspiration in her teaching.
“I’ve taken her class every single semester I’ve been here and I have improved so much since freshmen year,” she said. “Even though it’s the same class, I can still go and learn new things. By now, I feel like I’ve mastered a lot of what she teaches, but I still push myself in class.”
Four years of intense ballet training combined with an additional degree in math and a minor in finance would be enough to make anyone consider quitting, but Carter can’t imagine her life without dance.
“I thought I was going to quit dance after college, but dancing here is so fun and I do it so many hours a day that I just can’t see myself stopping right now,” she said.
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