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Scholarship helps Sweeton pursue her ballet dreams
Nutcracker - Katie Sweeton- Dance2.jpg
Photo courtesy of Martin O’Connor Dance and Fine Art Photography Katie Sweeton, 17, performs an impeccable leap while attending the prestigious Tennessee Governor’s School for the Arts summer 2019 program. Katie is one of five dancers from Paula’s Dance Academy to have ever been accepted into the program.

A young ballet dancer, with a bright and hopeful future, twirled her way to receiving a $500 scholarship from the Park Theatre Group to help further her education in ballet and the arts as she attends college later this year. 

The Park Theatre Group and Paula’s Dance Academy collaborated on the $500 scholarship for dance education in ballet with Katie Sweeton, 17, receiving the first scholarship from the remaining ticket sale profits gained from the 2019 performance of “The Nutcracker.” 

“I’m overjoyed with the scholarship provided by Park Theatre Group,” says Paula Barnes of Paula’s Dance Academy. “Katie deserves to be the recipient of this generous award for her many hours of work, dedication and passion.”

Adds Sweeton, “I feel very blessed and thankful for Paula, Camryn Austin and the Park Theatre Group for giving me the ability to pursue my passion of dance as a career.”

Katie is the daughter of Valerie and Rocky Sweeton. She has been dancing since age 4 and has been a dancer at Paula’s Dance Academy for 13 years. Katie is trained in classical and modern ballet, jazz, pointe, lyrical, contemporary and jazz.  Sweeton is currently a senior at Warren County High School, and is also an artist, writer and one of the top 10 students at the high school.

“Katie is truly an inspirational leader and an outstanding representative for our studio,” says Barnes. “She is a mature dancer, and is highly respected by her peers. Katie serves as the captain of the academy’s competitive dance team, and is a beloved teacher here at the studio. She enjoys taking on new and challenging leadership opportunities and is a true example of a dedicated dancer and leader.” 

Sweeton performed the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy in the 2019 Christmas “Nutcracker” show and has been in all four productions of “The Nutcracker” by Paula’s Dance Academy.

“I love how I can completely and utterly express myself through dance. I can be having a rough day, but I step into the studio, leave it all behind and find joy in my dancing,” says Sweeton. “If I want to express sadness or happiness through dance, someone can look and see the story and emotions I’m trying to convey through movement. I believe that’s what makes dancing so magical.”

Sweeton was selected to attend the Tennessee Governor’s School for the Arts summer 2019 program where she was highlighted in the advanced division as a performer. She tried out for the prestigious school and was accepted. Less than five other students from Paula’s Dance Academy have previously been accepted into the program. 

“The school was the most challenging three weeks of my life,” says Sweeton. “We danced from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. with one break for 22 straight days. It was challenging, but I learned so much. I’m grateful I was able to attend since it strengthened me as a dancer, as well as a person.”

For the future, Sweeton is looking to attend either MTSU to major in dance or Sewanee to receive a major in creative writing and minor in dance. Sweeton hopes to find companies around the world where she can teach, and claims she is looking forward to discovering where her love of dance can take her, whether conventional or not. 

“We chose Katie to receive the scholarship because she’s graduating and has shared with us that she’s going to further her dance education in college, whether minoring or possibly majoring in it, so we thought this would be great to send her off with,” says Camryn Austin, ballet teacher at Paula’s Dance Academy. “She will do great things with her talent, dedication and passion for dance. I’m excited to see what all she accomplishes in the future.”