Ali Randazzo, technical editor

This fall, rather than filling her bags with textbooks and pencils, Emma Perry will load up on sunscreen and leotards to embark on a cruise ship where she will pursue her passion for dance.

“School has always been great, but I have never found a passion in learning [that equates to] the passion I have found in dance,” Emma said.

The audition process will begin this summer when Emma turns 18; she will first travel to Oklahoma City for an audition with Celebrity Cruise Lines. Emma became interested in this career a few years ago, when she saw other girls from her dance studio auditioning for similar jobs. The job would include working four nights a week, along with all-inclusive food, room and board.

“One girl in particular who graduated from my [dance] studio 12 years ago runs the production show for Celebrity Cruise Line, so [it] helps that I know her, and that I know about this job offer,” Emma said.

Emma hopes to begin her dance career on a ship in order to gain experience, but eventually move up in the dance world. Her biggest goal is to meet a someone who can open her to bigger job opportunities, or create her own business.

“The best part about [my future] is that I am just going to dance and see where it takes me,” Emma said. “Unless anything changes, when I’m older I want to save up my money and open a dance studio, possibly here in Kirkwood.”

Sarina Dayan, senior, has known Emma since sixth grade but the two have become inseparable within the past two years. Sarina said a cruise ship atmosphere is the best fit for Emma since she is spunky, outgoing and goes with the flow. Over the years, she said she has had the pleasure of watching Emma blossom through dance.

“The songs she picks [to dance to] are really mature, and now that she is older I can tell she relates her movement to the lyrics of the songs,” Sarina said. “Emma really relates to her dances and it becomes 10 times more moving to watch. One dance that she is working on is all about saying goodbye, but I do not think that she could have done this dance a few years ago with the same passion for it that she does now, since she is a senior and [is] getting ready to leave.”

Kelly Perry, Emma’s mom, said she felt overwhelmed with excitement when Emma initially became interested in this career. Kelly said the biggest sacrifice will be missing Emma while she is gone on six-month cruises.

“It’s not your typical situation where your kid goes away to college and can come home to visit on breaks and holidays,” Kelly said. “But if Emma is homesick or her family is missing her, her father and I told her we will book a cruise to go see her. It’s kind of a win-win [situation] for both of us.”

Although she said she will miss her family and friends, Emma finds her exigence in dance. She said some people may look down on people who do not pursue higher education but believes she will flourish in her passion after finishing high school.

“If you are in school and haven’t gotten anything out of it, don’t be afraid to pursue other things,” Emma said. “There are so many opportunities in the world that do not require a lot of schooling, [and] now is the time to find your passion.”