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Extraordinary People: Young ballerina overcomes tragedy to dance on world-renowned stages

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- It's a big dream for any little girl. And, Dara Holmes was no exception. She wanted to one day dance for the world to see.

Today, at 21, Holmes shows off effortless precision in her pointe work. Her days in the ballet studio began when she was eight years old.

"I was flipping through the encyclopedia one day and I saw ballet. Of course, "b-a" is one of the first words and I saw the whole two-page spread and I was just like I have to be involved in this somehow," Holmes said.

Spending much of her childhood living in Wilmington’s inner city, money for dance was hard to come by. Still, Holmes’ mom Cynthia hoped and prayed that one day her daughter could become an accomplished ballerina.

The start to her dream came from a dance instructor at the Wilmington School of Ballet, Elizabeth Hester.

"Dara had the most perfect ballet body I had ever laid my eyes on and she had a focus I had seen in very few dancers,” Hester said.

Hester awarded Holmes a full dance scholarship. Her mom's prayers were answered.

Tragically, she would never see her daughter's greatest success. Holmes was 12 years old when she was riding in the car with her mom one day. A speeding car crashed into them. Dara suffered a broken collar bone. Her mom didn't survive.

"Before that we had gotten into a fight but then right before we rounded the corner, I said, 'mommy, I love you.’” And she said, 'I love you too,’” Holmes said.

The feeling of loss was overwhelming for the little ballerina. So she danced to escape reality.

"It was easier for me to deal with it by coming to dance and letting it out in my dance or just to focus on something else besides the thoughts that were going through my head,” Holmes said.

Her years in the ballet studio would finally pay off. She was awarded a full scholarship at the prestigious Harid Conservatory. From there, the internationally-recognized Joffrey Ballet in Chicago brought her on with a full scholarship. Now, she dances professionally for Joffrey on world-renowned stages, fulfilling her mother's dreams for her little girl.

Holmes tells other young dancers, "go for it and don't let anyone stop you."

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