By Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal
RIPLEY – While the world of ballet has captivated teenager Zoë Windham’s heart, other activities in school, church and community like pom squad, Spanish Club and Girls Scouts keep her life balanced and grounded.
“When I started ballet in first or second grade I didn’t like it,” 16-year-old Windham said. “A year or two later, fourth grade, I asked my mom to go back, and now it’s my favorite thing.”
In fact, on school days when Windham isn’t performing with the Ripley High School pom squad for games, she’s headed to Tupelo for lessons or rehearsals with Tupelo Ballet.
She earned lead role as Marzipan in the company’s December production of “The Nutcracker.”
“Now ballet is my favorite thing,” she said. “It’s what I put most of my effort into.”
The effort is paying off, as Windham auditioned and earned another significant role in the Tupelo Ballet Company’s March 23 production of “Cinderella,” playing the role of the Fairy Godmother.
Windham’s block schedule at Ripley High School allows her on Monday and Wednesday afternoons to go to Tupelo for ballet, where she spends about five hours in solo and group practice. On Sundays she goes back to Tupelo for the “Cinderella” rehearsals.
“The people in Tupelo are great,” she said. “It helps to go to a larger city and get broader exposure, and I’m excited to be in the spring production. I started dancing with the company in the fifth grade, and it was scary dancing with the older girls.”
In addition to the upcoming production, Windham is working on an audition program and video for advanced summer training.
While Windham is pursuing her dance goals she’s fully involved in other activities: First Baptist Church of Ripley youth group; Teenage Republicans; Fellowship of Christian Athletes; RHS Spanish Club; Northeast Mississippi Youth Foundation (CREATE Foundation); Ripley Main Street Ambassadors; RHS Diamond Girl; National Art Honor Society; Enrichment, a community-based program to support the school district financially and academically; and Girl Scouts Heart of the South Troop 606.
“I’m starting to work on my (Girl Scout) Gold Award, and it will take a lot of hours to get that,” she said. “A friend and I are planning a community service project that will be a memorial to cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. It will be on campus and make the campus look pretty and also be a reminder. It has to be completed before I graduate, but I don’t want it to sneak up on me.”
The effort Windham puts into her dance may lead to a career path, and although she’s still not decided about that, she’s sure she wants to continue dancing through her college years.
Her two older brothers are in Oxford, Ben already a University of Mississippi graduate and Brad a junior now, so Ole Miss is her first choice college.
“Whenever I start thinking about whether I want dance as a career, I start getting anxious, but they say do what you love, so I’m keeping my options open,” Windham said.