Kaeli Ware, a 14-year-old from Leesburg, Virginia, will perform as part of the ensemble cast in “Brothers of the Knight,” in which she dances with fellow cast member Phillip Johnson. (thegraphicsmine.com)

As your mom and dad always say: practice, practice, practice! That’s how you get really good at something, and that’s exactly what dancer Kaeli Ware has done for most of her 14 years. The Leesburg teen is on her first tour with the musical “Brothers of the Knight,” which opens Thursday at Warner Theatre.

“I’ve been dancing since I was 2 years old,” she said, speaking on the phone from Los Angeles, where the show opened. (A show on tour means it goes to different cities.)

“My mom is a dance teacher. . . . At first I didn’t really have a choice, but now it’s my passion. It’s what I want to do every day.”

Hard work

Three years ago, Kaeli was attending Harper Park Middle School in Leesburg. Then she started home-schooling in order to devote more time to dance.

“She works at everything she does,” said Adrienne Dellas-Thornton, the artistic director at Kirov Academy of Ballet in Washington, where Kaeli studies. “She works hard.”


On every day except Sunday, Kaeli gets up at 6 a.m. to go to Kirov Academy. There she dances for three hours. After that she rests, eats and does schoolwork. At 4:30 p.m., she starts dancing again at the Ashburn, Virginia, studio where her mother teaches, called Studio Bleu Dance Center. She dances for five more hours. She finally gets to bed around 11:30 p.m. after doing more homework.

“I get tired a lot because it’s a lot of work, but I just keep pushing,” Kaeli said.

Classical ballet is a big part of Kaeli’s studies because, she said, ballet is the foundation for other types of dancing. When Kaeli was 9, she moved to New York with her mom for a couple of years to study at the American Ballet Theatre. But Kaeli missed doing other types of dancing, such as hip-hop, which is a big part of “Brothers of the Knight.”

“Even [in] hip-hop or tap, you need correct posture and arms,” she said.

She calls the way she dances in the show “lyrical,” in part because there are words that go with her dancing. “It’s like ballet, but it is a lot more powerful. I think that’s why I like it so much. I get to show off my technique and tell a story.”

The show

“Brothers of the Knight” is based on the fairy tale “The Twelve Dancing Princesses,” about 12 sisters who sneak out of the house every night to go dancing, leaving their dad wondering why their shoes are worn.

The show is written and choreographed by well-known dancer Debbie Allen, who graduated from Howard University in the District. In Allen’s version, the 12 dancers are boys. Kaeli plays one of the 12 girls who dance with the boys. She has a solo dance number, too. (All the dancers in the ensemble for the Warner show are from the Washington area.)

In Los Angeles, Kaeli and the cast had three weeks of rehearsing six to 10 hours a day.

“Even though we just had three weeks of rehearsals, I think we dance really great together,” Kaeli said. “It’s a lot of work obviously, but it’s what I love to do,” she said.

Kaeli’s goal is to perform in musicals on Broadway in New York someday, and according to Dellas-Thornton, that is a very attainable dream.

“She’s one of those rare children who has everything she needs to make it,” she said. Plus, Dellas-Thornton said, “She’s kind to everybody and lovely to be around.”

Moira E. McLaughlin