While earning a degree, student realizes a ballet dream


By BRIANNA SCHUTZ/Montana State News

Lottie Ortman is a 23-year-old English teaching major at Montana State University. However, there is one thing that dramatically sets Ortman apart from her peers. She is something every little girl has dreamed of being, a ballerina.

“Ballet essentially raised me; it’s how I developed my worldview,” Ortman says with a smile. Ortman’s passion for dance is apparent; she radiates a sense of happiness and contentment, you can feel her passion run through her words and it makes you want to watch her dance. She has ample experience in the category of ballet and recently danced her dream role, The Nutcracker’s Dewdrop Fairy, adorned in the magical tutu and tiara.

Since dancing the Dewdrop Fairy role, she says that her favorite form of dance has turned towards contemporary style.

She describes performing the contemporary pieces choreographed by Amy Stoddart as, “Providing a much more organic feeling than ballet. It (contemporary dance) allows you to move, feel, and emote more than ballet does.”

Orman began actively dancing at the age of 13 when she joined a peer group at the Montana Ballet Co. She joined because that’s where her friends were and dance soon became her release. Now, 10 years later, much of that remains, She still enjoys the people she dances with and dance still provides her with a sense of release.

One thing has changed for the better; Ortman has been fortunate enough to be a paid performer with the company for the last two years.

“I remember being a 15- and 16-year-old girl in a room full of other dancers just like me, aspiring to become professional dancers and thinking to myself, they are all better than me. I just wanted to dance and now I get paid to do it. How cool is that?” Ortman says gleefully.

However, a 16-year-old Ortman was unaware her dream would actually come true. She was just a girl who wanted to dance. The road to get her to where she is today was not always easy though.

Today, Ortman’s right foot is in a medical boot.

She chuckles slightly and begins to explain the medical history and burdens athletes and artists hate to explain. Ortman had her first surgery in 2010 for a bone spur in her foot. She went on to explain that after spending many years in pain, she had no choice but to get an MRI done.

The prognosis revealed her only option was to have surgery to fix three bone spurs, a surgery which ended up also removing 15 percent of damaged tissue in her foot. She has had to retire her point shoes for a minimum of one year to recover.

Dance and emotion go hand-in-hand, and the recent emotion-packed film Black Swan, was “scarily accurate,” according to Ortman.

The film is a dramatized version of what really goes on, but Ortman agreed that many of the things that the actresses felt, the concerns and self-doubt, all definitely came with being a dancer. She explained that she herself even gave up her passion at the age of 18 due to some self-image issues on top of other doubts or concerns.

The decision to quit first stemmed from the feeling of inadequacy when a teacher told her, “You look like a fat canary.” In addition, her best friend had been kicked out of the school for being a “punk” and Ortman was entering a rebellious stage of her own.

Ortman could only bear being away from dance for a year before she needed it back in her life. She found herself in the studio whether or not she likes it, it’s a magnetic force that she cannot shake.

Her current teachers would never dream of telling their dancers they needed to lose weight or question their self-appearance, something that is probable to happen when standing in front of mirrors in leotards day in and day out, which makes dancing for them even more pleasurable.

Ortman says of her teachers, Amy and Elizabeth, “That isn’t to say they are ‘easy’ teachers, they just give feedback in a way that makes you feel good about yourself. They (Amy and Elizabeth) continually talk about all the pizza and ice cream they eat to show us its okay.”

She goes on to describe the Montana Ballet Company as a healthy, happy, and kind environment.

The one and only time Ortman quit dance was a choice; now she is taking some time off for a reason she has no control over. Until her foot heals and she is able to return in the studio she is trying to find alternative solutions.  Other activities involving similar movement like Pilates are helping, but they are not dance.

“Dance is an outlet for me; the world gets just a little bit brighter to me when I dance.” Ortman says.

Edited by Jesse Powell



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