Katie Frese is drawn to the grace and strength of ballet.
Frese, an 18-year-old Salmon Arm Secondary Grade 12 student, recently danced her way through her Royal Academy of Dance Advanced Two ballet exam, which she passed “with merit,” a mark of high achievement.
Frese, who dances with Just For Kicks Dance Studio, prepared for the exam for two years, poring over a syllabus that outlined exercises and routines, including bar work, centre work, pirouettes, allegro and en-pointe work.
For Frese, who began dancing at age six, the exam day at the Kelowna Canadian School of Ballet was a nerve-wracking one.
“You work for two years for one day. I was having an ‘off’ day for pirouettes, so I was really nervous. I was worried I’d fail, but I got Merit, so I was happy,” laughed the dancer, who also does lyrical, modern and jazz dance.
The dedicated dancer, who plans to study science at UBCO, has trained almost completely at Just For Kicks in Salmon Arm. In a typical week, Frese dedicates 10 to 12 hours to practising ballet and about six hours to teaching beginner classes at the dance studio.
“I’m a perfectionist,” admitted the dancer with a chuckle. “I like that there is always something to work at getting better at. There’s always something to achieve. Ballet gets my mind off of things and makes me happier.”
Frese is grateful for the support of her parents as well as her friend and fellow dancer, Rachel Cote, also 18.
Her greatest mentor is her ballet teacher, Sonja Woods.
“Mrs. Woods is always so positive. Other girls say they have strict teachers. Mrs. Woods is disciplined, but she takes time to develop relationships with her students. I’ve been dancing with her for so long, I think she knows me better then I know myself.”
This student-teacher relationship has inspired Frese to consider teaching ballet in the future.
“Mrs. Woods has been such a great mentor to me. It’s important for girls to have that. I love to see how excited they get about dancing.”
Just for Kicks Dance Studio owner Patty Fleming calls Frese “amazing.”
“Out of all my years of teaching, and out of all the people I’ve taught, Katie is the most humble. She is so sweet and the most beautiful dancer.”
“Katie’s a very special talent,” agrees Sonja Woods, who teaches both Frese and Cote. “I think, if she so chose, Katie could become a professional dancer. She’s a very elegant dancer and has the physique for ballet. It will be a hard day when these girls graduate. The studio will miss them and so will I.”