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Dance with Charisma

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Charisma Patterson, daughter of Marissa-Ellen Patterson, a community resource specialist assigned to the 48th Force Support Squadron, poses for a photo at the Sports and Fitness Center at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, April 27, 2018. Charisma, a military child, was introduced to ballet at a young age by a former Family Child Care provider. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Shanice Williams-Jones)

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Charisma Patterson, daughter of Marissa-Ellen Patterson, dances at the Sports and Fitness Center at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, April 27, 2018. Patterson participates in approximately 16 hours of dance instruction per week. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Shanice Williams-Jones)

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Charisma Patterson, daughter of Marissa-Ellen Patterson, performs adagio, a ballet movement, on the barres at the Sports and Fitness Center at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, April 27, 2018. Patterson has been dedicated to ballet for eight years dancing in three different countries due to her father’s military orders for a permanent change in station. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Shanice Williams-Jones)

ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England -- Being a military child and working towards dreams can be daunting because of the challenges associated with moving.

“Moving to different countries does make it a bit difficult,” said Marissa-Ellen Patterson, a community resource specialist assigned to the 48th Force Support Squadron.

For Charisma Patterson, daughter of Marissa-Ellen, her passion for dance only deepens despite her family’s multiple transitions to new countries.

“Charisma had her first dance recital at two years old [while in the U.S.],” said Marissa-Ellen. “She was introduced to dancing by her then-Family Child Care provider whose daughter was also in dance.”

The Patterson family eventually had to move when they received permanent change in station orders to Germany, according to Marissa-Ellen, adding an obstacle to Charisma’s dream of being a ballerina.

“We had to get a waiver for her in Germany to keep her in dance,” said Marissa-Ellen. “She [also] had to do a test to figure out her placement here in the U.K. system.”

Without familial support, the added obstacles of being a military child would make her journey to dance increasingly difficult, or worse yet, shorten her journey.

“We support her as a family, but this has all been Charisma,” said Marissa-Ellen of Charisma’s dedication. “[Dance] is something she looks into every new place we move to. Sometimes I see a program that I share with her and she’s always excited to try it.”

The ability to execute the artfully intricate moves of ballet, with grace, requires dedication and focus. Charisma embodies those traits in practice and in her steady pursuit of a balanced repertoire.

“She has about 16 hours per week of dance instruction and has started cheerleading and freestyle,” said Marissa-Ellen
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Ballet is sometimes described as a complex language. Some even say the first step to learning ballet is to learn the words of the movements.
When Charisma dances, it is with a firebird leap characterized as bold, and a jeté that is sprightly.

“She was actually a shy child but dance has really helped her to come out of her shell,” said Marissa-Ellen. “When she’s on stage dancing, you would never know how reserved she was.”

Her name suggests a compelling nature that is in contrast to her personality, yet befitting of her talent.

Elements of her identity can be seen in the execution of every maneuver used to tell the story in an upcoming production with the award-winning English Youth Ballet.

This year, Charisma is one of the 100 talented dancers chosen by the English Youth Ballet to perform in a premiere, Cinderella in Hollywood. Last year, the company had over 1,500 dancers audition for the opportunity to perform.

“It’s basically about Cinderella but her mom is an actress and her dad is a musician,” said Charisma. “I’m excited but a little nervous too.”

Ballet is about disciplining the body to being able to achieve amazing things while making it seem effortless. At 10 years old, Charisma understands this.

“Flexibility is the most difficult part but you have to be,” she said.

When she describes her favorite aspects of ballet, she does so with enthusiasm. Her goal is to achieve a higher level of flexibility.

“That’s why I want to be more flexible…so I can do harder moves,” said Charisma. “You should always try and never give up.”

She dances with purpose, elegance and poise. She dances with charisma.