Inverness ballerina on the verge of making her dream a reality

Alyssa Casey has been dancing almost from the time she could walk.

"Dance came naturally to me," said the Barrington High School junior, who was about 18-months-old when she began dancing to music playing on the stereo.

Not long after, her mother took the then 3-year-old to a production of "The Nutcracker." Casey was hooked.

"I remember how mesmerizing the whole experience was and how much I wanted to be on that stage," said the 17-year-old via email. "I told my mom after the performance that I wanted to be a ballerina when I grew up."

Casey is on the verge of making her dream a reality. This weekend, the Inverness teen dances the titular role in Illinois Youth Dance Theatre's "Alyce in Wonderland," at the Raue Center for the Arts in Crystal Lake. Partially inspired by Lewis Carroll's story, the ballet was choreographed by IYDT founder and artistic director Alyce Keaggy Brinkmann.

"Every little girl wants to be a ballerina on stage wearing a pink tutu and pointe shoes and I never grew out of that fascination," said Casey, who has studied for 14 years at Wauconda's Illinois Dance Conservatory, which is affiliated with the IYDT, a preprofessional ensemble.

Barrington High School junior Alyssa Casey dances the titular role in Illinois Youth Dance Theatre's production of "Alyce in Wonderland Ballet" at the Raue Center for the Arts this weekend.

"I often joke with my friends that as ballet dancers we're theater kids, varsity athletes and fairies all combined into one profession," she said. "You get a taste of it all through ballet."

The pursuit of perfection fuels Casey's art and her passion for dance which she describes as incomparable, adding "there is something about dance that makes it impossible to live without."

While Casey has studied contemporary, jazz, hip-hop, cultural, modern dance and other styles, her heart belongs to ballet which she says poses mental as well as physical challenges.

"You have to have a lot of mental toughness to work through the most challenging points and to be able to persevere ... No matter what knocks you down, you must find a way to get back up and stay strong when you feel like giving up," said Casey who says she has had to develop a thick skin to pursue the art she loves.

Inverness ballerina Alyssa Casey, who plays the titular role in Illinois Youth Dance Theatre's "Alyce in Wonderland" ballet, always knew she would make dance her profession. Courtesy of Illinois Youth Dance Theatre

To that end, she will spend next year completing her senior year of high school while continuing her training in Chicago. After she graduates, she will audition for a spot in a professional dance company in her quest for perfection.

"There is no limit to how much you can improve," she said. "It's a never-ending project."

Performances of "Alyce in Wonderland" are 7 p.m. Friday, May 12, and 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday, May 13, at the Raue Center, 26 N. Williams St., Crystal Lake. Tickets are $22-$27. Visit or call (815) 356-9212.

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