Jeffersonville, Ind. is a city full of passion and talent, as seen through the honorable names that have called this place their home. Basketball stars Mike Flynn and Sara Nord, businessman and entrepreneur ‘Papa’ John Schnatter, and many more who have walked the streets of our city, visited our local businesses, and have dreamed of making it big.
Shelby Leet has lived in Jeff her whole life, and one day, hopes to be one of those names that people associate with her home town.
For as long as she can remember, Leet has been involved in dance, even taking some classes with her mother, Beverly, as a child.
“We used to take these little ‘Mommy and Me’ classes together, and I also did gymnastics. Then I broke my arm and I never went back,” Leet laughs. “After that, when I was around six years old, I started at my dance studio, Southern Indiana School for the Arts, and I’ve been there ever since.”
Leet (pictured left) in the Spring 2007 Production.
Being enrolled in rigorous dance classes, ranging from ballet to jazz and tap, from such a young age has instilled a sense of discipline and maturity. When asked how her background sets her apart from others, she was very shy and humble in her answers, diverting her answer to what dance has done for her, rather than her talents and achievements.
“This aspect of my life has definitely shaped me into a better person,” Leet said. “Not only has it taught me to work and think harder, I’ve learned to do it in such different ways I wouldn’t have done otherwise.”
Being involved in dance has also given Leet numerous opportunities to enhance her performance quality and ways of expressing her talent. She recently traveled to Chicago to audition for the Rockettes’ Summer Intensive, a week-long class working with some of the best dancers in the country.
Her passion for ballet grew from a childhood hobby, to a career choice.
Leet (pictured right) in a précipité, in the Spring 2009 Production.
“In middle school, when we really started talking about what paths we wanted to take, I realized I didn’t want a ‘normal’ job, like a doctor or something like that,” Leet recalls.
Over the years, Shelby has been involved in countless shows and recitals, long rehearsals and hard work, and as she got older, even teaches the classes to the toddlers who are in the same place as she was over a decade ago.
Leet (pictured front) in the Spring 2016 Production.
Shelby comes from a family full of unconditional love and support, from her immediate family, to grandparents, even her aunt and cousins.
Leet says, “They constantly support and encourage me to follow my dreams, no matter how far fetched they may seem.”
Leet’s parents, in particular, are incredibly proud and hopeful that their daughter’s experience will help her get to where she wants to be.
“Shelby has made ballet and dancing a part of her life,” Leet’s mother Beverly gushes, pride radiating from her voice. “It takes almost all of her free time and provides challenges that help her continue to grow, as a dancer and as a person. I just hope she knows how special and beautiful her craft is and that her passion will make her dreams come true.”
Through her career at SISA, Shelby’s support system has grown with more friends, mentors, and teachers. One of the most important people in Leet’s eyes, ballerina Chelsea Endris, has been enrolled in the same programs as Shelby until she pursued a career in dance.
Leet (pictured right) with Endris (pictured left) in the Southern Indiana School of the Arts' production of The Toymaker.
“I have personally watched Shelby grow from a bright eyed hopeful dancer to the intelligent, determined star she is today,” Endris says. “It’s easy to say that she was born with stunning performance quality, but through the years of not only dancing beside her, but also working with her to achieve her artistic vision, she fully surpasses all expectations and proves to hold a promising future in this art.”
This feedback is exactly what Leet strives for.
“I have absolutely no idea where I want to go for college yet, but I would love to be able to go to a performing arts school. Ideally I could make a career out of this,” Leet says. “First I would want to be a professional dancer, I’d love to be able to travel and perform in cities I’ve never seen. Afterwards, I’d really like to be able to teach dance to be able to help little kids do what they love.”
Unfortunately, what makes Shelby the happiest can also bring negativity and doubt into her life. There is a stigma that dance as an art will not make a career. Dancers have a feeling of constant worry that no other options will be as rewarding and yet financially supportive.
“Last year I wanted to stop because I felt like ballet just wasn’t for me. It was really sad because that’s what I’ve always dreamed of doing,” Leet confesses. “Later I realized that there are so many other choices and opportunities out there, I just have to have courage and be brave enough to seek them out.”
Dance has given Leet a lifetime of learning and dedication, even though some people don’t understand why it is so important to her.
“If I had to tell someone with dreams as big as mine one piece of advice, it would be to stay true to yourself,” Leet says. “Don’t let small minded people hold you back from pursuing what you want.”