Caroline Baldwin: The Story Begins
Most fairy tales begin, "Once Upon A Time". This is a fairy tale, of sorts--about a remarkable young woman named Caroline Baldwin.
Once upon a time, there was a young girl named Caroline who lived Old Town. For many years, she belonged to us. Now, she belongs to the world. Caroline is a dancer with the Royal Danish Ballet. When she was two, I gave her a Dr. Seuss book, (actually I gave it to her younger sister Greta, but they shared the stories). One story was called, "Oh, the Places You'll Go". Barely in her twenties, Caroline has already gone very, very far.
Congratulations, today is your day. You're off to great places; you're off and away. Dr. Seuss
Caroline Baldwin grew up across the courtyard from me. When she was little, her mother dressed Greta and her in designer dresses and black patent Mary Jane sandals. Once dressed, Caroline and Greta would head out to the Crilly Courtyard and stomp through every mud puddle they could find. Their mother just threw up her hands.
Caroline outgrew puddle stomping and exchanged her Mary Janes for ballet slippers. She became a student at the Faubourg School of Ballet and dreamed of becoming a great ballerina. Every day, her mother drove her out to suburban Hanover Park where she practiced for hours to perfect every step, bend, and nuance of dance. She went through so many pairs of ballet shoes her parents joked they would have to remortgage the house to pay for them. Instead of discarding the worn ones, she hung them at the foot of her bed, like an ongoing piece of art work. They are still there.
Most young girls spend their summers relaxing. Not Caroline. She danced and studied in summer programs worldwide: New York, London, San Francisco, Houston. Every year when the summer ended she begged to be allowed to stay for the year-round program--but her parents, especially her father, were adamant that she finish high school at Whitney Young, where she was enrolled.
When she was seventeen, she competed in Youth America Grand Prix and won a scholarship to train at the Royal Danish Ballet School in Copenhagen for three weeks. At the conclusion of the three weeks, the company invited her to stay and take classes with the apprentice dancers. This time, she convinced her parents to let her stay and Caroline was able to complete her high school diploma online.
Caroline's talents were noticed by the Royal Danish Company. Within months, they offered her an apprenticeship. Several months later, after performing with the company in many of their productions, she was asked to become a member of the Corps de Ballet.
On Her Way
You'll be on your way up, you'll be seeing great sights. You'll join the high fliers who soar to great heights. Dr. Seuss
In 2007, when Caroline was seventeen years old, she traveled to Paris with her family. Her parents bought her the last ticket for the ballet being performed at the Palais Garnier. She sat in the front row and was transfixed by the performance and the dancers. In 2012, Caroline returned to the Palais--not as a spectator, but as a performer.
In the spring of 2009, Caroline went on tour with the Company to Tokyo where she danced in Romeo and Juliet and in a Danish signature piece called Napoli. The Tokyo trip was an unbelievable experience for the young ballerina. Everywhere she went there were flashbulbs going off and crowds of fans asking for her autograph--which she happily gave, all the while pinching herself to be sure she wasn't dreaming. I have a personal memento of that trip. Caroline brought me a beautiful set of hand-painted coasters, which I will not allow anyone to put a wet glass on.
After the Japan tour, Caroline spent the summer at the Royal Ballet School in London. She returned to Copenhagen for the 2009-10 season. She danced as a member of the corps and gave a stellar solo performances as the Lilac Fairy, the Grace Fairy, and the Cat in Sleeping Beauty. This year she moved up to the lead role of Princess Aurora. A critic for the Copenhagen Report singled her out saying that "...Caroline made a promising debut as the bubbly and charming princess".
Caroline's life is not all flash bulbs and autographs. It is hard work. Endless hours of practice. Hardly any private life. And a constant struggle for perfection. Often her feet are so sore and swollen she can barely walk. But she endures the pain for that indefinable moment of joy she experiences when she walks onstage, hears the music, and begins to dance.
Like Being a Rock Star
How does Caroline feel about her rise to stardom with the Royal Danish? "Being a dancer in Europe is like being a rock star," she says. "Danish people are so passionate about their ballet. If someone asks you what you do for a living and you say " I dance for the Royal Danish Ballet, it's like you're a celebrity". She adds that the Queen of Denmark comes to the ballet all the time. The company always bows to her first, then they acknowledge the audience.
Where will she go from here? Who knows? For now, she loves living her dream, living in Denmark, and dancing with the Royal Danish Ballet.
Be sure when you step, step with care and great tact and remember that life's a great balancing act. Just never forget to be dextrous and deft. And never mix up your right foot with your left. And will you succeed? Yes you will, indeed! 98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed. KID, YOU'LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!
I still have a hard time grasping Caroline's happily ever after life, and recognizing that the little duckling who held her sister's hand as they sloshed through puddles in the Crilly Courtyard has become a swan. I look at her photographs and Jerome Kern's lyrics run through my mind, You were destined for purple-hued throne rooms; you were fashioned for princes to see...Dance on, Princess Caroline.
Filed under: Living in Interesting Times