Jessica Kinnaman has danced since age four and plans to dance for years to come. The 14-year-old Jefferson County resident began ballet lessons as many preschool children do; however, her desire to excel was evident early on.
Kinnaman says she began studying seriously at age 10 although she had been in lessons prior to that age. She traveled to the D.C. area for training until she was accepted into the Akhmedoba Ballet Academy in Silver Spring, Md. She now studies and practices there five days per week, approximately 19 hours.
Jessica's mother, Sandra Kinnaman, said that although the journey has sometimes been an expensive one, it has been a total family commitment to encourage Jessica in her dream.
"The Lord has continued to open doors to allow her to move ahead," Sandra said.
Jessica has been the recipient of several scholarships which have allowed her to continue dancing at the level she does.
One of only a few students at her current Academy, Jessica said she hopes to remain there for study until she is 18 or 19. After she has received her training, the next move will be into a ballet company, hopefully as a premier or prima ballerina.
As she has worked toward her future goal, Kinnaman has earned opportunities to compete in a variety of prestigious ballet events.
Early in 2014, she attended the Youth American Grand Prix (YAGP), the world's largest student ballet scholarship competition that awards over $250,000 annually in scholarships to leading dance schools worldwide. The competition was held in Pittsburgh, Pa. At the Pennsylvania competition, Kinnaman was accepted into the finals which will be held in New York.
"It is a high honor to be accepted here," Jessica said. "I was the only one accepted from my school as a soloist."
In addition to performing, attendees at these functions receive training in workshops headed up by experts in the field. There are opportunities for scholarships, additional classes and the awarding of various prizes and supplies.
If the year did not hold enough excitement for the young dancer, Kinnaman's instructor encouraged and helped her audition for the International Dance Festival TANZOLYMP that is held in Berlin on an annual basis under the motto "Dance as a global language." It gives participants the opportunity to meet other young people from all over the world in workshops, seminars and competitions.
Kinnaman auditioned via video tape and was selected to travel to Germany and compete. She explained that the competition is broken into categories with approximately 100 competing in her age group. Only two were from the United States.
Jessica shared that dancers who placed were named to be in a gala performance the day before the medal rankings were given. She was on the list for the gala, along with approximately 30 other dancers, but did not know what level she had earned.
When the medals were announced, Kinnaman came home to Jefferson County with a gold medal in the classical category.
She now has her eyes set on the upcoming April finals in New York.
"I'm not sure where my final goal is," she said, other than to attain the goal of prima ballerina. "I'm trying to do my best every day," she commented.
A homeschool student, Jessica is active in her church and spends much time with sister, Laura and parents, Steven and Sandra.
"There is not much time for anything else," Sandra said. "We focus on church, her church friends and where the Lord leads."