Roughly 300 dancers traipse through the doors of Dance Theatre International each year, twirling, leaping and pointing their toes.
When 15-year-old Olympic figure skater Polina Edmunds first debuted at the Evergreen San Jose neighborhood dance academy seven years ago, her teachers noticed a few standout things about her.
“At first, she just looked like any other little girl,” said her ballet trainer, Xavier Ferla, a native of Switzerland who began dancing at age 4. “But then I noticed that the muscles in her legs were already so defined. So many children do not have those muscles because of video games.”
Young Polina’s attitude stood out, too.
“Polina doesn’t have just talent,“ said Ferla’s wife, Maggie Parungao-Ferla, who co-owns the dance school with her husband. “She’s got the perseverance. When she was younger, she missed a lot of birthday parties while training. She is committed, and she never says, ‘I don’t feel like it.’ “
Polina was the girl who always “danced with integrity” – whether she was front center or way back in the back corner, Parungao-Ferla said. “And she valued all her teachers’ corrections.”
The ballet-dancing couple couldn’t be more proud of Polina, who began taking ballet and jazz from their 20-year-old studio when she was 8, and whose ice moves often mirror some of the choreography she learned dancing in San Jose. While training this month in Munich, Polina tweeted a photo of herself wearing a blue DTI tank top, saying “practicing my ballet on ice!”
And on Wednesday the Ferlas are hosting a “watch party” at their academy when Polina takes to the ice in Sochi, to root on their classmate.
Many at the dance academy know and dance with Polina, who is now at Level 6 in ballet and Level 4 in jazz. She takes both those classes for a total of two and a half hours each Friday evening, after her ice training and a full day of classes as a sophomore at Archbishop Mitty High School.
Parungao-Ferla, who was born in the Philippines, values Polina’s dedication. She herself began dancing at age 7, and trained six days a week as a youngster. Her parents taught her that once she started something – and that if she wanted to be good at it –- she needed to stick with it. Parungao-Ferla said Polina’s mother, Nina Edmunds, who trained in Russia with Olympic ice skating coaches, is also the backbone behind Polina’s focus and success.
“Teenagers are pulled in many different directions,” Parungao-Ferla said. “But Polina’s mother is a parent who encourages her daughter to stick it out in hard times."
This stick-to-itiveness has had a positive effect on many of the students at Dance Theatre International – and it’s even having some effect on some of the more lenient parents, too.
“I think that people see there is this deeper connection to being an Olympian,” Parungao-Ferla said. “To be one, you really need to put in the hard work. “
Below: Polina Edmunds poses for a photo with Ferla and Parungao-Ferla.