Grace Larimer

Grace Larimer displays her dance technique. Larimer has been accepted into the prestigious La Roche College dance program in Pittsburgh.

CONNEAUT — A long-time dance student at Conneaut Arts Center recently learned she has been accepted to study ballet at La Roche College in Pennsylvania starting this summer.

Grace Larimer, 18, of nearby Cherry Hill, Pennsylvania, a few miles’ drive from Conneaut, found out this month the prestigious college is in her future.

“It’s been very nerve-wracking leading up (to the news),” Larimer said, smiling.

Less than a dozen students are accepted to the Pittsburgh-area college’s program annually, Jami Loach, the CAC’s assistant director, said in an email message.

“They have a 100 percent placement for graduates in their field,” Loach said. “That’s pretty incredible.”

Larimer began studying dance at the local arts center more than 10 years ago — thanks to a family member.

“I followed my sister into ballet when I was 8 years old,” she said. “I wanted to be with my older sister.”

Her sibling gave up dance long ago, but Larimer persevered. The past several years she was a student of CAC dance instructor Tessa Deutsch.

“I think I was really lucky to have such a good teacher like Tessa,” Larimer said.

Deutsch was not available for comment Tuesday.

La Roche was one of a number of schools on Grace’s radar as she neared the end of her home-schooled education. 

“(Autumn) was a whirlwind of research,” she said. “Researching schools, applying to schools and auditioning.”

La Roche stood out because it is a Catholic-based college with a highly-regarded dance program. Grace auditioned for Maria Caruso, the program’s chair, and was immediately accepted.

“I got a decision on the spot,” she said.

“I was very intimidated when (Caruso) told me she goes around the world to audition (prospective students).”

Larimer, who said she plans to pursue a career on the stage, believes the years spent at the Conneaut Arts Center will prove valuable at La Roche. She also served as a tutor to other students at CAC.

“I have teaching experience, which could come in handy,” she said. “I enjoy teaching. It helped me look at my own dancing, too.”

Heather Kovacic, CAC executive director, said everyone at the arts center is happy for Larimer’s next big step in her life.

“We’re very proud of her,” Kovacic said. “She’s a great representative of what (the CAC) strives to provide.”

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