The Erie area is known for a lot of things.  Now, it can also be known as a place where ballerinas are made.  

Much credit goes to the Patterson School of Ballet on West 21st Street in Millcreek.  It’s here where owner and artistic director Michael Patterson teaches his students everything they need to know to improve as a ballet dancer.  Four girls he has been training are ready to move on.  They have been accepted to continue their training at prestigious ballet companies across the country.  

"It's very much like getting drafted into the NFL. It's the equivalent," says Michael. "It doesn't guarantee you a spot on a team, but it does put you in a much more competitive atmosphere.”  

Gabriella Emerson, 18, started ballet at the age of 5. She's been training at the Patterson School of Ballet since 2017. It was a schedule of 17 hours of ballet class each week on top of schoolwork. Now, she's ready to leave home to begin training with the Milwaukee Ballet.

"It's feels nice,” says Gabriella.  “You feel proud of yourself that you've gotten this far.  With that, it helps you to carry on."  

Dariah Strickland, 18, began dance lessons at age 7.  She studied jazz, tap, and modern dance in addition to ballet.  It was only three years ago that she decided that she wanted to focus on ballet and to train with Michael.  Now, she's headed to California to train with the Sacramento Ballet.

"Compared to some other people who start this when they are 5 or 3 and they do it like, every day…I had a lot to catch up on,” says Dariah.  

Katelyn Ottavio, 17, has decided to finish her senior year in high school studying online while she trains with Ballet Met in Columbus. She started ballet at age three.  She's ready for that next step.

"I'm excited,” says Katelyn.  “I think I'll be able to handle the dancing and the school and everything like that.  So, I think I'll be OK."  

Sierra Griffith, 18, is studying this summer in Seattle, but will begin a paid apprenticeship with the New York City Ballet this month. It's one of the top companies in the world. Performing there is the pinnacle of ballet.

Michael, the students' instructor, knows what it takes to be a professional ballet dancer. He performed with the Pennsylvania Ballet in Philadelphia.