Name to know: Lynne Bellinger, ballerina

Ballerina Lynne Bellinger: "Just to feel the movement, I would dance all day every day."

As part of The Baltimore Sun's Fall Arts Guide, reporters and critics picked 10 up-and-comers whose names you should get to know. See the full list here

Lynne Bellinger, 31, ballerina

Lynne Bellinger didn't realize how much she loved classical dance until she walked away from it while she was in her teens — and risked permanently jettisoning her career.

Bellinger trained as a child at the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, among the nation's best schools for classical dance. But as a high school freshman, she decided to hang up her toe shoes and give musical theater a try.

"I was 14, and I felt I was getting stuck," Bellinger says. "I didn't have the ideal ballet body. I kept getting passed up by all these prodigy children who were younger than I was, taller than I was, and had smaller hips."

Besides, Bellinger has another gift that would be showcased by musical theater: an impressive soprano.

Though Bellinger landed starring roles in "West Side Story" and "Grease," she realized she didn't enjoy acting as much as singing and dancing. Besides, she missed the discipline of ballet, what it could do to her body, what it allowed her to express.

"I hear music really well," she says. "Just to feel the movement, I would dance all day every day."

But for ballet dancers, the high school years are crucial. When it came time to apply to college, Bellinger figured a career in ballet no longer was an option for her. She enrolled in Goucher College and graduated in 2006 with a bachelor's degree in business management.

But Goucher also has an excellent dance program. And before she knew it, Bellinger began taking classes — even if she had to start out back in the intermediate classes when previously she'd handled the advanced steps with ease. But, the technique coming back to her.

"I wasn't as out of shape as I thought I'd be," she says.

After graduating, she landed a two-year stint as a trainee with The Richmond Ballet. In 2008, she joined Ballet Theatre of Maryland as an apprentice.

"Lynne had a charisma that really made her stand out from the group," says Dianna Cuatto, the Annapolis-based troupe's artistic director.

"She's naturally expressive and she has a lot of flow in her dancing. She has a lovely, lyrical quality."

Bellinger rapidly rose through the company's ranks and three years ago, she became a principal, or highest level of dancer. The 2016-17 season is shaping up to be the most demanding of her career, as she will tackle three major roles: Clara/The Sugar Plum Fairy in Cuatto's version of "The Nutcracker," Katrina in "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and The Lady of the Lake in "Excalibur – The Sword and the Stone."

"The gift that I saw is just beginning to come out fully," Cuatto says. "Lynne is starting to reach her full potential."

mary.mccauley@baltsun.com

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