Young ballet student dances in honor of uncle

Photos by Emily Thiel Katrina Robbins dances in honor of her uncle.
Photos by Emily Thiel Katrina Robbins dances in honor of her uncle.

Father’s Day is when we take the time to honor the men in our lives, and show our appreciation for what they have accomplished.

This year, Katrina Robbins, a soon-to-be seventh grader at Daniel Boone Middle School, is remembering her uncle in the best way she knows how -- through dance.

Robbins, 12, Birdsboro, has been taking dance lessons for the past decade, starting in tap and ballet classes when she was just a toddler. Robbins is taking steps to remember her uncle Army Specialist Eric Rothharpt, Birdsboro.

Kristin Maddaloni is the instructor at Turning Pointe Dance, Birdsboro, where Robbins is enrolled in ballet.

“Miss Kristin,” as she is referred to by her student dancers, choreographed Robbins’ dance in honor of her uncle with a routine in sync to Jo Dee Messina’s song “Heaven is Needing a Hero.”

“I thought it was a great idea, and a great way to pay tribute to her uncle,” Maddaloni told Berks-Mont Newspapers.

“My uncle put his life on the line, and died so young,” Robbins said. “I heard the song and his life story kinda clicked.”

In the choreography, Robbins dances with a photo of her uncle, and clothes herself in his Army jacket. With her ballet routine, Robbins is shining a light on post-traumatic stress disorder and hopes to spread awareness about the disease. “PTSD is severe, men and women both get it, and suffer from it,” Robbins said. “I want everyone to get the help they can. PTSD is damaging, and people need to know this something serious.”

Seeing her daughter asking questions and getting behind a cause makes Beth Robbins proud.

“It’s wonderful to see her becoming the person she is,” Robbins said about her daughter, Katrina.

Rothharpt served a year in Iraq in 2007, and was stationed at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky in 2008. Rothharpt suffered from severe PTSD from his experiences overseas. After returning home, Robbins saw the first hand effects of PTSD in her uncle. Rothharpt asked all the children in the family to tell him before hugging him, and not to approach him from behind.

“We were realizing more and more he was not getting the help he needed,” Beth Robbins, Katrina’s mother, said about her younger brother.

Rothharpt died in 2009 at age 24; he was a graduate of Daniel Boone High School. The youngest of all his siblings, he was closer in age to his nieces which provided him the title of “the cool uncle.”

“He was the youngest,” Katrina Robbins said. “You could tell him stuff about younger things and he would understand.”

Robbins misses her uncle and his sense of humor, but she sees him everyday in her cousin Gambit, Rothharpt’s son.

Robbins is dedicating her favorite artistic form of expression to the love and memory of her Uncle Eric. “Ballet is what I enjoy,” Robbins said. She plans to continue with dance and hopes to make it a career.

Turning Pointe Dance performed their recital June 1 at Daniel Boone Middle School.

About the Author

Emily Thiel

Emily Thiel is the editor of The Southern Berks News and is the Community Engagement Editor for Berks-Mont Newspapers. Emily joined Berks-Mont in March 2013. She graduated from Kutztown University in 2011 with a degree in English with a concentration in Cultural and Media Studies. Emily is a native of Allentown, Pa. Reach the author at ethiel@berksmontnews.com or follow Emily on Twitter: @sthrnberksnews.