A PSL dancer obtains a ballet scholarship at the Princess Grace Academy of Monaco

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PORT ST LUCIE – A local teenager received a ballet scholarship at an academy in Monaco, beating thousands of dancers from around the world to land one of 10 places.

Thirteen-year-old Ella Justi will spend the next year studying at the Princess Grace Academy on the French Riviera.

“I was in total shock and started to cry,” said Ella, whose family recently moved from Palm City to Port St. Lucie. “Princess Grace was also the school of my dreams, which makes it more exciting.”

Ella started dancing at the age of 2, she said, but took a serious interest in the art form at the age of 7.

Ella Justi, 13, from Port St. Lucie, was awarded a one-year scholarship to the Princess Grace Academy in Monaco to continue her ballet studies.

The school teaches a wide variety of dance styles – lyrical, contemporary, jazz – said Ella, but ballet is by far her favorite.

“I love the training and the discipline and the way you can get on stage and be yourself,” she said. “I love to play it.”

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Ella has performed many popular ballet pieces, she said, most notably as lead lady Clara in The Nutcracker.

The Princess Grace Academy mainly focuses on classical ballet but also incorporates contemporary dance, Ella said, adding that she was looking forward to being trained in both styles.

Ella received her scholarship from the Youth America Grand Prix, a nonprofit ballet competition that sends promising artists to major dance institutions around the world. Over 10,000 dancers audition for scholarships each year.

Youth America Grand Prix sent Ella’s audition video to Princess Grace Academy – a four-year program for teens to train and prepare to enter the professional industry – where she was selected as the ‘one of 10 students entering the academy’s freshman class, said Leslie Justi, Ella’s mother.

The full scholarship covers Ella’s first year, Justi said, and the family is hopeful that Ella can complete all four years, although she will need to qualify for ongoing scholarships.

Ella, who is now homeschooled, will continue her education at the Florida Virtual School, Justi said, and will study French as required by Princess Grace Academy.

Although Ella has never been abroad, she said she is already in contact with other students in the program via social media and looks forward to starting this next chapter.

“I feel a lot of emotions, but most of all I’m excited to experience new things in a different country,” she said.

Ella hopes to become a professional ballerina, she said, and is confident that training at Princess Grace Academy will help her make that dream come true.

Catie Wegman is the community reporter for TCPalm. You can follow Catie on Twitter @Catie_Wegman, on Facebook @ catiewegman1 and email him [email protected]

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