Emily Perry, 16, began dancing when she was six years old and hasn’t stopped. As soon as she was old enough to help in the kitchen, she started baking.
Little did she know that her skills in the kitchen would help her dancing career. Her dancing, however, led her to use her culinary skills. Hence, “Cupcakes4 Ballet.”
From the time she was 6, she danced, and she danced on pointe to where the increase in the intensity of her ballet training caused her to wear out two to three pairs of pointe shoes per month.
“A pair of pointe shoes can cost between $60-$90,” Perry said. “My parents suggested I find a way to raise money to contribute to the cost. In 2009, I started Cupcakes4Ballet.”
Perry bakes and sells cupcakes to support her ballet training, which increased in intensity years ago. She took lessons at Ann Freeman Dance Academy until she was 12 and then moved to Clater-Kaye Productions.
“I trained with Melissa French, who was at Clater-Kaye at the time,” Perry said.
When French and her husband, Michael French, opened their ballet school at NewArt School in the Newton-Conover Auditorium, Perry moved, too. While still training with French, Perry auditioned in March, 2009 for the North Carolina Dance Theatre School.
“It’s a big school, and it wasn’t just me in the audition,” she said. “I was in a normal class with others, and the teachers observed us for a week or two.”
Perry was accepted into the NCDT and began her pre-professional training in Fall 2009. She is currently in Ballet 5, which is the highest level of the school’s dance program.
Perry, a junior at Hickory High School, leaves for Charlotte and the NCDT as soon as the last bell rings. On the way to Charlotte, she eats a light snack in the car and works on homework.
“I go to Charlotte Monday through Saturday, every day,” she said.
“Classes are from 4:15 p.m. until 6:45 p.m. On Saturday, classes are from 9:15 a.m. to 4 p.m. or 6 p.m.”
“Sometimes I stay an extra hour if we’re in rehearsal for a piece we’re working on to perform later in the year,” she added.
The school performs three times a year, but the biggest production and Perry’s favorite is “The Nutcracker Suite.”
So, Perry goes to school most of the day in Hickory and is in the highest track of accelerated classes, travels to Charlotte for ballet training, and gets back to Hickory about 8 p.m. When does she bake?
“It’s tricky — usually when I get home at night,” she said. “My next orders go out this weekend. I had to hire one of my friends, but I did a pilot run, tested the recipe and handed it over to her.”
Perry pays her friend to bake, but she still decorates the cupcakes.
“I enjoy that,” she said. “Also, I like to put them in specially decorated boxes.”
Perry now only sells cupcakes seasonally or for holidays. Her upcoming sale is Oct. 28-30. The next sale will be for Thanksgiving, with deliveries made around town the weekend prior to Thanksgiving, which is Saturday, Nov. 19 to Monday, Nov. 21.
“The flavor will be Pumpkin with Cream Cheese Frosting topped with sugared pecans,” she said.
Perry enjoys baking — it’s relaxing, especially if it’s a recipe she knows really well.
Will she share her recipes?
“The recipes aren’t really my own,” she said. “I get them from cookbooks or online and test it first. Most people don’t ask for the recipe.”
Regardless of whether or not she’ll share the recipe, she will share her favorites — Pumpkin and Red Velvet.
Though the majority of her profits go toward pointe shoe and ballet expenses, Perry donates $3 of every $10 box of cupcakes to the NewArt Ballet School.
“In order to give back to my community, I decided to support their [Melissa and Michael French] ballet school,” she said.
While she enjoys Cupcakes4Ballet — donating to something she cares about, meeting customers and experimenting with new flavors — academics rank just as high.
Perry wants to attend Harvard.
“Rigorous academics, but they have a challenging dance program — very strong,” she said. “The student-run ballet cooperative consists of a lot of former ballerinas and dancers with a solid understanding of ballet.”
Future goals also include auditioning for a strong professional ballet company.
When does she sleep?
“I get pretty good sleep,” she said. “I enjoy my schedule and for the most part I’m not overwhelmed.”
Meanwhile, the money she donates from Cupcakes4Ballet to NewArt will scholarship young dancers whose families are unable to afford ballet classes.
“Every kid deserves a chance to chase a dream,” Perry said.
For more information about Cupcakes4Ballet, email Emily Perry at firstname.lastname@example.org; visit her Facebook page or her website (www.cupcakes4ballet.com ).
n Key Lime Cupcakes
n Lovely Lemon Cupcakes
n Triple Chocolate Cupcakes
n Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
n Red Velvet
n Mint Chocolate
n Pumpkin with Cream Cheese Frosting.