The tiniest of students file through the door for their first day of pre-school. The brightly decorated room fills with toddlers eager to begin discovering who they are. There, in the midst of super-hero back packs and unicorn lunch boxes, is a pale pink tutu. One little girl has already discovered who she is…. a dancer.
“Oh my gosh! I love ballet and being a dancer and I wanted to take that everywhere I went,” remembers Eden Galloway, now 13 years old. “I just love dance so much and it’s just in me!”
“I don’t know where it came from,” ponders her mother, Amanda Galloway. “She wore a tutu to school every day. It got to the point where I tried to find them in every color so it would go with her clothes!” she laughs.
With two older boys at home, Amanda wanted her only daughter to find her own path. She naturally thought of ballet class. Eden was two years old. It did not take long for mom to realize, she had picked the right hobby.
“She just wanted to constantly be there”, marvels this former athlete and cheerleader. “Even when there were no classes, Eden would say to me, ‘ I know somebody is at the studio. Can’t we just go?’”
The studio, Center Stage Dance in Asheville, NC, would become Eden’s home for the next 10 years and counting. Here, with teacher, Michelle Lee, Eden trains 5 hours a day, 6 days a week. Ballet gets a special focus with 1.5 hours most days. Center Stage offered Eden her first taste of competition when she was 6 years old.
“I could tell just from the way she danced that there was something different about her,” smiles her mother. “Still to this day, I watch her and I can’t stop watching her. She just draws my attention in. With Eden, there is something in her. It’s almost like she feels something different.”
Those who have seen Eden interpret any genre seem to agree. In a room filled with hundreds of dancers all performing the same counts, the combo somehow looks different on Eden. She puts her signature on every aspect of the dance from her interpretive facial expressions to the sudden flick of a hand.
“I just like to groove with the music and have fun,” explains Eden. “In class the main thing is, if you feel stupid than you probably look great!” she laughs. “I like doing things really big. I love traveling and being big and not being in tight with myself.”
This special “Eden” flair is captivating. However, some have suggested perhaps it should be less so.
“I have had people say, ‘Maybe you should be a little softer,’ and tell me to be something different that I’m not. I take the correction, but that’s not who I am,” she reflects. “I have thought I should tone it down because everyone else is, but I just love dance so much and it’s just in me.”
Perhaps this is what Eden’s mother is most proud of. “I love that she is happy to be who she is and that she is true to herself. I’ve told Eden that I love that you are so comfortable with your own self that you don’t do what is popular or fall into a trend.”
That confidence to continue being herself lead Eden to the most powerful moment of her young life. As an 11 year old mini, she attended New York City Dance Alliance Nationals. On gala night, Eden was “over the moon” to be selected to perform her solo as a scholarship finalist. Before that evening, she never imagined she might be eligible to win the Mini title, but in the rush to change before that last performance, Eden whispered to her mother, “Why not me?” Mom had no response.
“I remember standing there with the other girl and holding her hand so tightly,” Eden recalls about the final moments before the title announcement. “When Joe Lanteri called my name, I just couldn’t believe it! I cried a lot,” Eden recounts as tears fall all over again. “It was probably the best year of my life so far. Being able to go around the country and dance with all these kids on the stage was the most amazing year ever!”
This year, Eden hopes to contend for the Junior title and continues to travel the country each weekend to attend her favorite conventions. Her schedule is more flexible than most because she has followed in her big brothers’ footsteps and is homeschooled. This also gives her time to explore her passion for music more deeply. Eden is learning to play guitar and also takes voice lessons.
With this combination of talent and Eden’s ability to tell a story on stage, Broadway would appear a natural next step. While there have been no auditions just yet, that is clearly in the future.
“I’ve always wanted to be on Broadway,” she proclaims with a wide smile. “I’d like to be the star but I’d be fine if I was one of the people way in the back.”
“I want her to dream big,” adds her mother. “I feel like she is self motivated and she has a passion. It makes me emotional. I can just sit in those classes and watch her and my heart just wants to explode. It’s a joy to watch my kids do what they love and Eden loves to dance. It’s like it’s in her soul.”
In the convention rooms across the country, that much is clear. Each weekend, fellow dancers, parents and teachers are treated to a performance with each combo. Here, the brightly colored carpets and the bold hues of leotards form the garden and the rhythms, emotions and movement complete Eden’s vision of paradise.
“I love expressing myself not through just words but dancing and I love the music and feeling yourself through it. I just love dance so much and it’s just in me!”