Stroik and his wife are writing the story of the ballet, which will loosely follow their daughter's life - friends and family of Raffaella will be able to recognize the similarities, he said.
The story takes place in Italy, one of Raffaella's favorite places to visit and the language that she studied. The story will take place in the 18th century so that it can incorporate some of the elements of traditional ballets - kings and queens, princes and princesses, peasants and village life.
The character of Rafaella will be a princess who grows up wanting to be an artist like her parents, meets interesting people in her life, and interacts with both a good prince and a deceptive prince who vie for her attention.
"(She's) really searching for the true prince, and she sees him from time to time in her life. And then the other prince who comes along sweeps her off her feet and is very attractive, and she's totally compelled by him but he turns out to be a deceptive prince," Stroik said.
Stroik noted that the theme of superficial beauty and its deceptive power is a common one in other traditional ballets.
The ballet's ending, of course, cannot be given away.
"My hope is it's the kind of story with the kind of good and evil love, joy, hatred, fighting, peacemaking that will speak to people for generations. That's my goal," Stroik said.
The desire for a ballet that transcends generations is an idea that comes from his Catholic faith, Stroik added.
"We want to do something that's timeless, that's universal. And I think that relates to our Catholic faith. We're not doing something just for today...but we also want it to - if it's really good - hopefully, it will speak to future generations as well. So we'll see, but that's our goal," he said.
Rafaella's Catholic faith was always central to her life and her art, Stroik said, and he noticed it in how she interacted with others as well as in her passion for her art.
"It caused her to try to always put other people first, which we saw a lot in her life. It caused her to forgive...and she tried, as best she could, to live the Beatitudes," he said.
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
"She told us that when she danced and danced really well, she felt like she was experiencing the beatific vision. She really felt that it was a very religious, spiritual experience, especially performing," he said. "She was experiencing a taste of heaven."
The Stroiks have raised $115,000 of their $250,000 goal, and Duncan said he has been surprised and touched by the way this project has touched the hearts of people who knew Raffaella and those who did not.
"One of the things that's really surprised me in a good way is how many notes I've gotten from people - people that I know, but also people that I don't know - telling me they love the idea. They said, 'What a beautiful tribute to your daughter.' And, again, people that I don't even know will write me notes and say, 'This is fantastic that you're doing this.'"
Stroik said he hopes the ballet will be ready to premiere in spring or summer of 2022. He said they are still exploring options as to where it will debut, but they are hoping to recruit dancers from Rafaella's life - from her time at the St. Louis ballet, her college ballet at Indiana University, and her high school ballet - who are professional dancers and friends of Rafaella to perform in it.
"I'm hoping that some of them will return to be part of this production," he said.
Stroik added that he hopes people who come to see the "Raffaella" ballet will walk away with a new appreciation for the beauty of the art form and with a sense of hope.