Work hard, Dance Harder: The Journey of a Pre-Professional Ballerina in High-School

By: Matty Mooney

Finding one’s passion takes a leap of faith, but for Lillian Register, a Junior at Jenks High School, the only leap she made was falling in love with ballet.

Starting at the young age of two, Register donned her first pair of ballet shoes, and has been dancing ever since. 

During the 2019 season, Register had the opportunity to attend the Rock School of Ballet in Philadelphia. She moved by herself to a completely new city, and during her time there, she continued to grow her artistry, discover new friendships, and gain a sense of independence. Days would consist of a morning of academics and hours of ballet classes, partnering, and rehearsals. Register was selected to be the main soloist for the Rock’s annual showcase. 

“It was the most fun I’ve had in my entire life. Everyone was so happy for each other, and during that show was when I realized that this is something I can really pursue,” Register recalled, “That my teachers fostered a great environment for me to grow in.”

Ronnie Underwood demonstrates  a lift during Pas de deux (partnering class) with his students. 

After returning to Oklahoma in 2021, Register has been dancing under the expertise of Sher’ron and Ronnie Underwood; a sibling duo running Tulsa Dance Company. With them, Register placed Top 12 in the Senior Division at Youth America Grand Prix, a prestigious ballet competition, in which Register plans to return to this year.

“She’s a natural talent. It’s been fun to see her grow as a dancer. Working with her is rewarding for myself,” Underwood said, “I think right now in our  training I get more out of her coaching. It will swap when she’s long gone. She’s on track to do great things.” 

Register poses with her head down, a common posé used in Swan Lake. 

Underwood has been teaching Register on and off since her childhood. He continues to show up and be one of her biggest supporters, doing whatever is necessary to make her ambitions reality, including helping Register through a life-changing injury in the summer of 2019. Register went through major surgery, and despite being told to rest and rehabilitate, learned at a young age that there are zero days off in the ballet world.

“People always give me crap for it- they say, ‘Lillian how come you just can’t take a break?’ Listen. Being injured and a dancer is one of the most complicated things ever” said Register, “If you take three days off from ballet, you lose technique, you lose stamina, so many muscles that you have to use. You really have to listen to it–learn to take care of your body.”

People may disagree with Register’s habits, but she knows herself best. There’s always more opportunities to reach, always more stepping-stones to take in a ballet career. However, Register’s passion for dance developed into more behind the scenes, creating costumes and crowns under the knowledge of her first ballet teacher. With a newfound expertise on costuming, Register opened up her own Etsy business; ToiToiToi Tiaras. An affordable, well-made option for dancers in your own life. Register creates her own costumes both for ballet competitions and TDC’s end of the semester shows. Her seamistry is a valuable asset to her dancing career. 

Register poses in handmade crown and costume for the Diana in Acéton variation.

“I remember thinking this is pretty cool, watching her measure and cut out the embellishments. I love making pretty things and seeing how it was made was amazing. I love making tiaras. Ronnie always tells me, if you dance pretty, you feel pretty,” Register said.
Register continues to preserve regardless of the challenge. She hopes to continue her passion and love for ballet into the future, and to a professional career. Register has recently been accepted into BalletMet’s Summer Intensive and Trainee Program, where she will continue her studies in Columbus Ohio starting in the fall. Want to support her business? Click here for Register’s Etsy shop. Curious about Tulsa Dance Company and their faculty? Click here for their website!

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