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Dance of Determination

Chasing a Dream to the NYC Ballet



Former Wilton High School grad Mary Liz Sell is now a dancer with the New York City Ballet.

Photo by Kate Taylor / Quince and Mulberry Studios

Carol Sell adores ballet. Her husband Rick prefers soccer. So when their daughter Mary Liz turned five, the couple encouraged her to try both. For the next three years, the youngster twirled her way through dance classes, and chased soccer balls with friends. When she started showing up for games in pink tights, her parents realized she was trying to tell them something. “Ballet was harder for me than soccer, and I liked that,” Mary Liz recalls. “It allowed me to see the progress I was making.” That simple insight launched the Sells on an odyssey into the intensely competitive world of professional ballet. 

By age ten, Mary Liz was attending Manhattan’s prestigious School of American Ballet. Following an academic day in Wilton, the young dancer was headed into New York City for classes at SAB, doing her homework in the car. When not in Manhattan, she attended a ballet school closer to home.                

Mary Liz’s mentor and long-time instructor Linda Freyer recognized her protégée’s zeal and determination early on. “Even as a little girl, Mary Liz had an enormous passion for dancing,” says the Freyer Academy of Ballet founder. “Nothing was going to stand in her way—not school, not friends, not the prom.” 

Advancing the young dancer’s ambition was a full-family commitment. “I would watch Mary Liz’s youngest brother after school, while Carol drove her to the city for ballet classes day after day,” Freyer says. “Rick worked, took care of their two older sons, and helped with dinner and the household.” It was the unwavering support of Mary Liz’s family and Freyer that fanned the spark ignited by her mother years earlier.

The Sells kept up their rigorous schedule through Mary Liz’s sophomore year of high school. Recognizing the need to immerse herself fully in ballet if she hoped to make a profession of it, the dancer collaborated with Wilton High School administrators to develop an academically acceptable correspondence curriculum that would allow her to earn her diploma. 

By autumn, the 16 year old was living on Manhattan’s Upper West Side with Feyer’s daughter, Heidi, at the time a student in the Ailey/Fordham University BFA program. “Heidi was like my mom,” Mary Liz says. “I’d go to an open class at Steps on Broadway in the morning, take classes at SAB in the afternoon, then return to the apartment and do my schoolwork. I had to teach myself, and Heidi would help.”

That dedication paid off when Mary Liz was selected to join the internationally renowned New York City Ballet. Dancers begin in the Corps de Ballet and advance either to senior corps members, the position Mary Liz now holds, soloists, or principals. “I don’t necessarily aspire to be a principal dancer,” she says. “Principals typically dance one ballet a night, whereas the corps dances two or three.”

The training is incredibly rigorous, especially during performance season when, in addition to conditioning, Mary Liz dances ten hours a day. Not surprisingly, she’s sustained her share of injuries. Four years into dancing with the NYCB, she began experiencing severe pain in her ankle. “I have this crazy pain tolerance, which isn’t good, because the injury inevitably gets worse. I kept ignoring it, then my other ankle started hurting so much that I forgot about the pain from my first injury.” When the curtain came down on the last performance of the season, she was in the doctor’s office, scheduling surgery. 

Despite the sacrifice and commitment required, professional ballet confers an ineffable and transient magic all its own. “Sometimes what you release is very powerful to the audience—and then it’s gone,” Mary Liz explains. “That’s what I love about live performance: You create this work of art at this moment in time, and this particular audience is the only one that will ever see it. The next night, we will dance the same ballet, but it’s always different.”

While performing in Paris this past summer, Mary Liz celebrated her 30th birthday, which means she’ll likely “expire” in five years. Retirement age comes earlier for corps members because they dance so much more than soloists and principals. While the latter may perform into their late 40s, corps dancers typically retire between the ages of 28 and 36.

What’s next for the woman who’s devoted her life to ballet? “I have so many things I want to do. I love writing and will probably write fiction that’s influenced by my experiences. It’s a magical little world, ballet. It allows for so many interesting stories.” Not the least of which is this ballerina’s own.

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April 2018

Saturday, April 21 through Tuesday, April 24 Wilton Library’s Annual Gigantic Spring Book Sale Fundraiser Wilton Library’s largest book sale features more than 70,000 items sorted in...

Cost: free

Where:
Wilton Library
137 Old Ridgefield Road, Wilton
Wilton, CT  06897
View map »


Telephone: 203-762-3950
Website »

More information

The Theatre Artists Workshop (TAW) will present a reading of Norwalk writer Jim Gordon's new comedy "The Incident” President Durak's approval rating has crashed. He needs...

Cost: ​A donation of $15 is suggested

Where:
The Theatre Artists Workshop
5 Gregory Blvd
Norwalk, CT
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Telephone: 203-854-6830
Website »

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By donating your perennials, pots and planters to the library to be resold, you will be minimizing waste and giving your unwanted perennials, pots and planters a second life. When spring arrives...

Cost: free

Where:
Keeler Library
276 Titicus Road
North Salem, NY  10560
View map »


Sponsor: Keeler Library
Telephone: 914-274-7206
Contact Name: Cynthia
Website »

More information

Mondays, April 2 through May 21 @6pm Caring for a loved one who is ill is stressful and exhausting. It can be a profoundly isolating and lonely experience. Visiting Nurse &...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wilton Library
137 Old Ridgefield Road
Wilton, CT
View map »


Website »

More information

Wednesdays, April 4 through May 23 @1pm ​Grief is invisible and often misunderstood. It can be a profoundly isolating and lonely experience. Visiting Nurse & Hospice of Fairfield...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wilton Library
137 Old Ridgefield Road
Wilton, CT
View map »


Website »

More information

“We are living in a time that requires inventiveness and imagination,” Leatrice Eiseman, PANTONE Color Institute. Zeitgeist is descending to downtown New Canaan this season with...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (203)801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

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Saturday, April 21 through Tuesday, April 24 Wilton Library’s Annual Gigantic Spring Book Sale Fundraiser Wilton Library’s largest book sale features more than 70,000 items sorted in...

Cost: free

Where:
Wilton Library
137 Old Ridgefield Road, Wilton
Wilton, CT  06897
View map »


Telephone: 203-762-3950
Website »

More information

By donating your perennials, pots and planters to the library to be resold, you will be minimizing waste and giving your unwanted perennials, pots and planters a second life. When spring arrives...

Cost: free

Where:
Keeler Library
276 Titicus Road
North Salem, NY  10560
View map »


Sponsor: Keeler Library
Telephone: 914-274-7206
Contact Name: Cynthia
Website »

More information

Mondays, April 2 through May 21 @6pm Caring for a loved one who is ill is stressful and exhausting. It can be a profoundly isolating and lonely experience. Visiting Nurse &...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wilton Library
137 Old Ridgefield Road
Wilton, CT
View map »


Website »

More information

Wednesdays, April 4 through May 23 @1pm ​Grief is invisible and often misunderstood. It can be a profoundly isolating and lonely experience. Visiting Nurse & Hospice of Fairfield...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wilton Library
137 Old Ridgefield Road
Wilton, CT
View map »


Website »

More information

The winter exhibit at the City of Norwalk Parking Authority’s Maritime Garage Gallery entitled, “Worth a Thousand Words" features artists’ renderings that convey...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Maritime Garage Gallery
Website »

More information

“We are living in a time that requires inventiveness and imagination,” Leatrice Eiseman, PANTONE Color Institute. Zeitgeist is descending to downtown New Canaan this season with...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (203)801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

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Saturday, April 21 through Tuesday, April 24 Wilton Library’s Annual Gigantic Spring Book Sale Fundraiser Wilton Library’s largest book sale features more than 70,000 items sorted in...

Cost: free

Where:
Wilton Library
137 Old Ridgefield Road, Wilton
Wilton, CT  06897
View map »


Telephone: 203-762-3950
Website »

More information

Learn about building structures resistant to earthquakes with toothpicks and marshmallows Tuesday, April 24th from 4-5 PM For kids in grade 1-3 Registration is required To register,...

Cost: free

Where:
Keeler Library
276 Titicus Road
North Salem, NY  10560
View map »


Sponsor: Keeler Library
Telephone: 914-669-5161
Contact Name: Carolyn Reznick
Website »

More information

By donating your perennials, pots and planters to the library to be resold, you will be minimizing waste and giving your unwanted perennials, pots and planters a second life. When spring arrives...

Cost: free

Where:
Keeler Library
276 Titicus Road
North Salem, NY  10560
View map »


Sponsor: Keeler Library
Telephone: 914-274-7206
Contact Name: Cynthia
Website »

More information

Mondays, April 2 through May 21 @6pm Caring for a loved one who is ill is stressful and exhausting. It can be a profoundly isolating and lonely experience. Visiting Nurse &...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wilton Library
137 Old Ridgefield Road
Wilton, CT
View map »


Website »

More information

Wednesdays, April 4 through May 23 @1pm ​Grief is invisible and often misunderstood. It can be a profoundly isolating and lonely experience. Visiting Nurse & Hospice of Fairfield...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wilton Library
137 Old Ridgefield Road
Wilton, CT
View map »


Website »

More information

The winter exhibit at the City of Norwalk Parking Authority’s Maritime Garage Gallery entitled, “Worth a Thousand Words" features artists’ renderings that convey...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Maritime Garage Gallery
Website »

More information

“We are living in a time that requires inventiveness and imagination,” Leatrice Eiseman, PANTONE Color Institute. Zeitgeist is descending to downtown New Canaan this season with...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (203)801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

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On Wednesday April 25 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. join us for a leisurely stroll down our stream-side trail in memory of one of our founding Board members, Helen Hermes, to discover some of her...

Cost: FREE

Where:
New Pond Farm Education Center
101 Marchant Road
Redding, CT  06896
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Telephone: (203) 938-2117
Website »

More information

Come see Edith+Eddie, a 2018 Academy Award® nominated best documentary short film, followed by a panel discussion of esteemed experts in the fields of estate...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Ferguson Library
One Public Library Plaza
Stamford, CT  06902
View map »


Sponsor: SilverSource, Inc.
Telephone: 203-324-6584
Contact Name: Kathleen Bordelon
Website »

More information

By donating your perennials, pots and planters to the library to be resold, you will be minimizing waste and giving your unwanted perennials, pots and planters a second life. When spring arrives...

Cost: free

Where:
Keeler Library
276 Titicus Road
North Salem, NY  10560
View map »


Sponsor: Keeler Library
Telephone: 914-274-7206
Contact Name: Cynthia
Website »

More information

Mondays, April 2 through May 21 @6pm Caring for a loved one who is ill is stressful and exhausting. It can be a profoundly isolating and lonely experience. Visiting Nurse &...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wilton Library
137 Old Ridgefield Road
Wilton, CT
View map »


Website »

More information

Wednesdays, April 4 through May 23 @1pm ​Grief is invisible and often misunderstood. It can be a profoundly isolating and lonely experience. Visiting Nurse & Hospice of Fairfield...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wilton Library
137 Old Ridgefield Road
Wilton, CT
View map »


Website »

More information

Join Grace Farms Foundation and New Canaan Library for an insightful conversation about global policy and America’s potential for growth and leadership with retired United States Army General...

Cost: Free

Where:
Grace Farms
365 Lukes Wood Road
New Canaan, CT  06840
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Sponsor: Grace Farms Foundation & New Canaan Library
Telephone: 203-920-1720
Contact Name: Regan Hayes
Website »

More information

The winter exhibit at the City of Norwalk Parking Authority’s Maritime Garage Gallery entitled, “Worth a Thousand Words" features artists’ renderings that convey...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Maritime Garage Gallery
Website »

More information

“We are living in a time that requires inventiveness and imagination,” Leatrice Eiseman, PANTONE Color Institute. Zeitgeist is descending to downtown New Canaan this season with...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (203)801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

By donating your perennials, pots and planters to the library to be resold, you will be minimizing waste and giving your unwanted perennials, pots and planters a second life. When spring arrives...

Cost: free

Where:
Keeler Library
276 Titicus Road
North Salem, NY  10560
View map »


Sponsor: Keeler Library
Telephone: 914-274-7206
Contact Name: Cynthia
Website »

More information

Mondays, April 2 through May 21 @6pm Caring for a loved one who is ill is stressful and exhausting. It can be a profoundly isolating and lonely experience. Visiting Nurse &...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wilton Library
137 Old Ridgefield Road
Wilton, CT
View map »


Website »

More information

Wednesdays, April 4 through May 23 @1pm ​Grief is invisible and often misunderstood. It can be a profoundly isolating and lonely experience. Visiting Nurse & Hospice of Fairfield...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wilton Library
137 Old Ridgefield Road
Wilton, CT
View map »


Website »

More information

The winter exhibit at the City of Norwalk Parking Authority’s Maritime Garage Gallery entitled, “Worth a Thousand Words" features artists’ renderings that convey...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Maritime Garage Gallery
Website »

More information

“We are living in a time that requires inventiveness and imagination,” Leatrice Eiseman, PANTONE Color Institute. Zeitgeist is descending to downtown New Canaan this season with...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (203)801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

By donating your perennials, pots and planters to the library to be resold, you will be minimizing waste and giving your unwanted perennials, pots and planters a second life. When spring arrives...

Cost: free

Where:
Keeler Library
276 Titicus Road
North Salem, NY  10560
View map »


Sponsor: Keeler Library
Telephone: 914-274-7206
Contact Name: Cynthia
Website »

More information

Mondays, April 2 through May 21 @6pm Caring for a loved one who is ill is stressful and exhausting. It can be a profoundly isolating and lonely experience. Visiting Nurse &...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wilton Library
137 Old Ridgefield Road
Wilton, CT
View map »


Website »

More information

Wednesdays, April 4 through May 23 @1pm ​Grief is invisible and often misunderstood. It can be a profoundly isolating and lonely experience. Visiting Nurse & Hospice of Fairfield...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wilton Library
137 Old Ridgefield Road
Wilton, CT
View map »


Website »

More information

Join us Friday, April 27 from 8pm – 10pm for a Live Jazz Night at the Carriage Barn Arts Center. Performing jazz musicians are Rob Duguay’s “Songevity Trio” featuring Noah...

Cost: Advance tickets $15 / $20 at the door

Where:
Carriage Barn Arts Center
681 South Ave.
Waveny Park
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Website »

More information

Music on the Hill  celebrates "Music of Scandinavia" in a concert combining the Festival Chorus and professional Chamber Chorus, led by Artistic Director David H. Connell....

Cost: free

Where:
Wilton Presbyterian Church
48 New Canaan Road
Wilton, CT  06897
View map »


Sponsor: Music on the Hill
Telephone: 203-529-3133
Contact Name: Music on the Hill
Website »

More information

The winter exhibit at the City of Norwalk Parking Authority’s Maritime Garage Gallery entitled, “Worth a Thousand Words" features artists’ renderings that convey...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Maritime Garage Gallery
Website »

More information

“We are living in a time that requires inventiveness and imagination,” Leatrice Eiseman, PANTONE Color Institute. Zeitgeist is descending to downtown New Canaan this season with...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (203)801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

On Saturday April 28 from 10 – 11 a.m. veteran fly-tier New Pond Farm Program Director Tim Laughlin, would like to introduce you to the art of fly tying. Learn to tie a “Woolly...

Cost: $15 per New Pond Farm member child, $20 per non-member child

Where:
New Pond Farm Education Center
101 Marchant Road
Redding, CT  06896
View map »


Telephone: (203) 938-2117
Website »

More information

Take Part in this Entertaining and Interactive Afternoon of Clues, Challenges, and a Race to the Finish Line and After Party! Saturday, April 28, Meet-up 10:30 AM, Hunt 11 AM-1 PM,...

Cost: $40

Where:
??? :-)
Norwalk, CT


Website »

More information

Norwalk Now Presents a City-Wide Adventure NORWALK CITY HUNT Saturday, April 28, Meet-up 10:30 AM, Hunt 11 AM-1 PM, After Party 1-3 PM Norwalk Now presents Norwalk City Hunt, an...

Cost: $40

Where:
93 N Main St
norwalk, CT  06854
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Now
Telephone: 203-561-9878
Contact Name: Linda Kavanagh
Website »

More information

Saturday, April 28th at 3:00 Rated PG Open to everyone, no registration required For questions, please call the library at 914-669-5161 or email at keelerlibrary@wlsmail.org To learn...

Cost: free

Where:
Keeler Library
276 Titicus Road
North Salem, NY  10560
View map »


Sponsor: Keeler Library
Telephone: 914-669-5161
Contact Name: Carolyn Reznick
Website »

More information

By donating your perennials, pots and planters to the library to be resold, you will be minimizing waste and giving your unwanted perennials, pots and planters a second life. When spring arrives...

Cost: free

Where:
Keeler Library
276 Titicus Road
North Salem, NY  10560
View map »


Sponsor: Keeler Library
Telephone: 914-274-7206
Contact Name: Cynthia
Website »

More information

Mondays, April 2 through May 21 @6pm Caring for a loved one who is ill is stressful and exhausting. It can be a profoundly isolating and lonely experience. Visiting Nurse &...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wilton Library
137 Old Ridgefield Road
Wilton, CT
View map »


Website »

More information

Wednesdays, April 4 through May 23 @1pm ​Grief is invisible and often misunderstood. It can be a profoundly isolating and lonely experience. Visiting Nurse & Hospice of Fairfield...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wilton Library
137 Old Ridgefield Road
Wilton, CT
View map »


Website »

More information

In this coming of age documentary, four friends on the Autism spectrum whom have bonded through humor and performed as the comedy troupe 'Asperger's Are Us' will prepare for one final,...

Cost: free

Where:
Wilton Library
137 Old Ridgefield Road, Wilton
Wilton, CT  06897
View map »


Telephone: 203-762-3950
Website »

More information

Children’s Learning Centers of Fairfield County to Honor Margaret Keane at Benefit Concert Children’s Learning Centers of Fairfield County (CLC) will honor Synchrony Financial CEO...

Cost: $55

Where:
Palace Theatre
61 Atlantic Street
Stamford, CT  06901
View map »


Sponsor: Children's Learning Centers of Fairfield County
Telephone: 203-653-1369
Contact Name: Mike
Website »

More information

“We are living in a time that requires inventiveness and imagination,” Leatrice Eiseman, PANTONE Color Institute. Zeitgeist is descending to downtown New Canaan this season with...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (203)801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

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