For Dexter McCarty seventh-grader Lindsey Frilot, dedication and passion pay off with a role as Clara in the Classical Ballet Academy's 'The Nutcracker'
by: Carole Archer, Lindsey Frilot, 13, lives with her grandmother, Carol Woody, in Gresham. Frilot lost her mother four years ago to cancer.

Thirteen-year-old Lindsey Frilot is sprawled on the wooden floor of her grandmother's Gresham home, her jean-clad legs twisted into unfathomable angles, a bag of ballet shoes in her hands.

'This is my first time dancing on pointe,' Frilot says, pulling a pair of pristine, petal-pink pointe shoes from her bag. 'These shoes are for performances, that's why they're wrapped with tape. It keeps them clean.'

Frilot, a seventh-grader at Dexter McCarty Middle School who dreams of living in New York City and of someday teaching ballet to little girls like herself, is preparing for her first major ballet role, as Clara in the Classical Ballet Academy's production of 'The Nutcracker.'

The ballet opens at 2 p.m. today, Dec. 2, at St. Mary's Academy in Portland.

Not only is this Frilot's first time dancing 'on pointe,' it's also her first time dancing with a partner.

'It's very scary,' Frilot says with a laugh. 'I've been in seven different Nutcrackers … but this is my first time as Clara.'

'It's incredible to see their dedication'

Watching her willowy granddaughter run downstairs to show a visitor her bedroom, Carol Woody smiles and shakes her head.

'You know, as a parent, there are certain things you can't do for them,' Woody says. 'I can't instill the desire to do her best. That has to come from her.'

And it does.

At the age of 13, Frilot is already wise beyond her years. She understands that to reach her goals, to eventually become a ballerina, she must give up things other girls her age take for granted.

As a fourth-level ballet student at Classical Ballet Academy in southeast Portland, it is expected that dancers who wish to progress must be willing to sacrifice.

'I practice for an hour and a half, four times a week,' Frilot says.

Nearly every weekday, Frilot goes straight from school to ballet class.

The drive from Gresham to the Sellwood area is nearly an hour long and Frilot doesn't waste it.

'I do my homework on the way to ballet class,' Frilot says.

And, since becoming a member of her school's choir, 'she sings 0n the way home,' Woody adds.

When she moves into the advanced class, Frilot will practice five times a week.

'Sometimes the dancers stay after class until 10 or 11 at night,' Woody says. 'It's incredible to see their dedication. Especially on a Friday night, when other kids their age are out having fun, going to football games and dances.'

Frilot says she doesn't mind the lack of free time.

'I was never forced to take ballet lessons,' she says. 'This is something that I love.'

A mother's gifts

For Frilot, who lost her mother at a very young age, having a safe haven is crucial.

'When I'm dancing I feel like I'm in a safe place,' the teenager says. 'In ballet, I'm in my own world of concentration.'

When Frilot was 8 years old, her mother, Lisa, died after a nearly eight-year battle with cervical cancer.

Before she died, however, Lisa left her daughter a very special gift.

'She wrote cards for me, and she prepared presents for my birthdays and for Christmas,' Frilot says. 'There's even a gift for when I get married.'

Lisa Frilot's legacy to her daughter attracted national attention two years ago, when The New York Times ran an article on dying parents' gifts to the children they left behind. In that article, an 11-year-old Lindsey talks about the presents her mom has given her - including a wooden jewelry box with a card that read 'For a sweet daughter. Once upon a time a special wish came true and life was blessed forever with the one and only you' - and says the gifts make her feel closer to her mother.

Frilot has always been close to her maternal grandmother. Her parents built their home next to Carol and Bob Woody's Gresham house when Frilot was an infant, and after Lisa died, the youngster moved into her grandparents' house. Her father, Marty Frilot, still lives next door and maintains a close relationship with Lindsey.

The situation works for Carol Woody, who is always available when Frilot needs a shoulder to cry on or a bit of womanly advice. The two even share a bond through ballet.

'My mom never danced, but my grandmother did,' Frilot says, glancing at Woody, who, although she never danced professionally, still moves with the grace and poise of a former ballerina.

'Her mother preferred riding horses,' Woody adds. 'But Lindsey has always loved to dance. She has been taking ballet lessons since she was 3 years old. Dancing in 'The Nutcracker' has always been her dream.'

Frilot says she has the part she wanted, for this year, anyway.

'I've always wanted to wear a flat, pancake tutu,' Frilot says.

And when it comes to 'plum,' tutu-sporting roles, there's one part that comes to mind instantly.

'Yes,' Frilot answers the unasked question. 'Someday, I would like to be the Sugar Plum Fairy.'

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