Long before Allison DeBona took the stage as a first soloist with Ballet West, she had chosen to give up dancing to have a normal adolescence. In eighth grade she quit ballet and joined her high-school drill team. In spite of this decision, DeBona's teacher, Jean Gedeon of Pittsburgh Youth Ballet, never gave up on her and her future as a classical performer.

"When I quit ballet, Jean called my mom once a week every week for three or four years and said, 'When she wants to come back, I have a place for her because I believe in her.' She had so many students at the time, but she still took the time to care about me as an individual dancer. When I did finally come back, she provided opportunities for me to grow and be challenged. She took the time to help me get things right. I wouldn't be where I am today without her."

DeBona says she uses the skills she gained from her training in her daily work as a dancer and as a teacher. She and her husband and fellow Ballet West dancer Rex Tilton have started a summer intensive, artÉmotion, in which they push dancers to do their best by focussing on small but important details—a practice she attributes to her time with Gedeon.

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