Sitting in the back row of First-Year Seminar so no one will notice the crafty styling of her hair into a cinnamon-roll-shaped bun, Rebecca Tschan anticipates her favorite part of the day: ballet class. Tschan hustles to Lilly Hall with pointe shoes dangling from her backpack to warm up in Studio 77 with her fellow Butler Ballet freshmen. Yet, there is one thing that sets her apart from the rest. Tschan is a mere 16 years old.
Tschan began dancing at the age of four. She went on to dance at small local studios, eventually continuing her training in New York City. She attributed the bulk of her technical growth to the three years she spent under the private instruction of French teachers.
Completing high school online in an accelerated three years, Tschan was faced with the question of what to do next. Despite her young age, she decided to attend Butler University as a dance performance major because of all the program had to offer.
“The Butler dance program, especially, is what drew me to this school specifically, but I decided to go to college because I wanted to get an education,” Tschan said. “I actually auditioned at a couple of companies as well, but in the end, I decided to come to Butler.”
Cast in the Waltz of the Flowers corps de ballet for this season’s “The Nutcracker,” Tschan broke the mold for the typical freshman role.
Courtney Ramirez, senior principal dancer with Butler Ballet and this year’s Dew Drop Fairy, said that she was surprised to see someone so young in her corps de ballet.
“Typically when young dancers leave high school and graduate early, they go straight to a traineeship or a company position and not college,” Ramirez said.
Tschan is not only the youngest current member of Butler Ballet but is also the youngest dancer to ever be cast in Butler Ballet’s Waltz of the Flowers.
Naomi Robinson, sophomore corps de ballet member who dances alongside Rebecca, says her age is not apparent in rehearsals.
“I’m impressed with her professionalism inside the dance department,” Robinson said. “It’s obvious that she’s dedicated to her art”
Ramirez worried that maturity may be an issue because Tschan will be constantly surrounded by people two to three years older than her.
However, Tschan admitted that although the decision to come to college at such a young age was not an easy one, it has not been one she has regretted.
“I was worried at first, but everyone made me feel so welcome,” Tschan said. “The community is just so warm.”
Speaking from experience, Ramirez said that Butler Ballet will help prepare Tschan to enter the professional dance world, even at a younger age.
“When I was a freshman, I was very gung-ho and felt like I was ready and then the more that I learned throughout the time that I’ve been here, I realized how not ready I was freshman year,” Ramirez said. “So I think that if she gains as much as most dancers do through these four years, she’ll be fine.”
So far, Tschan has described her experience with Butler Ballet as “life-changing.”
Tschan dreams of dancing in Europe or Canada after graduating from Butler. After retiring from dance, Tschan hopes to pursue her passion for helping others by attending veterinary school..
Despite her hesitancy regarding Tschan’s young age, Ramirez encouraged her to commit to her decision and take advantage of everything Butler has to give: “Don’t let her age hold her back,” Ramirez said. “Don’t define herself by being the 16 year old.”