Brittney Lohmiller / The Natchez Democrat — Seventeen-year-old Natori Marshall, left, and Caitlyn Upton, 17, stretch before rehearsing for the Natchez Ballet Academy’s end of the year performance.
Brittney Lohmiller / The Natchez Democrat — Seventeen-year-old Natori Marshall, left, and Caitlyn Upton, 17, stretch before rehearsing for the Natchez Ballet Academy’s end of the year performance.

Through the Viewfinder: Grace earned in work

Published 12:03am Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Editor’s note: The Viewfinder is a weekly feature in which a photographer tells a story through the lens of a camera.

NATCHEZ — Two high school seniors stretch out along the windows and mirrored walls inside Margaret Martin Performing Arts Center before beginning their dance class at the Natchez Ballet Academy.

“My parents use to say that I danced before I could walk,” Caitlyn Upton said.

The Cathedral High School senior spends two to three hours a day practicing ballet on top of her schoolwork and performing in the Historic Natchez Tableaux.

“It’s really an art form,” Caitlyn said. “I always knew I wanted to dance ballet.”

Using wooden bars near the windows, Caitlyn begins to stretch her legs next to Natchez High School senior Natori Marshall.

Each girl works in slow deliberate movements, exchanging smiles and jokes between stretches. As Caitlyn slowly lowers into a plié, Natori begins to arch her body backwards.

The two girls, who previously knew nothing about each other, have become close friends.

“I never would’ve gotten to know Natori if we hadn’t taken dance classes together,” Caitlyn said.

Natori, like Caitlyn, started dancing when she was 3 years old but switched to cheer leading before returning back to dance 4 and half years ago.

“I started ballet because I wanted to do something different,” Natori said “I knew that I had a gift in dancing.”

Natori and Caitlyn balance busy schedules between dancing and schoolwork.

“It is challenging to dance and to do all of the school activities,” Natori said. “Most of the time, I put dance ahead of other things.

“I missed homecoming because I had Nutcracker rehearsals the same night.”

Natori was the dance school’s first black sugar plum fairy, and this year, she is performing as Fanny Elssler in Tableaux.

While ballet isn’t Natori’s favorite dance, the music and the movements are something she has come to love.

“The dance makes you look pretty,” Natori said. “And the music is soothing; it helps clear my head.”