Five ballet students are taking a giant leap in their training this summer.
Three students from Just For Kicks and two from the Shuswap Dance Center are heading to prestigious dance companies.
From Shuswap Dance Centre, 12-year-olds Joshua Williams and Chantel Jeffrey will attend Royal Winnipeg’s Ballet’s summer school.
Training with Shuswap Dance Studio owner Carolyn Wonacott since he was six, a very excited Joshua says he is honoured to have been accepted into the program.
“I like just have a focus on dance; you get in the mode where you’re just so into it and stuff,” the Grade 6 student says, pointing out he wanted to be like his sister, Anna, when he took up dancing and discovered he loved it. “I’m looking forward to meeting other guys who like to do what I like to do and have a professional feel about it.”
Chantel also auditioned in Kelowna earlier this spring and was placed on a waiting list.
“That was pretty darn exciting,” says the young ballerina who looks forward to taking her dancing to a higher level. “You have to really focus – in some activities you don’t have to, but dance and ballet you just have to really focus on what you’re doing.”
An ardent swimmer and runner, Chantel says she will soon have to narrow her choices.
“I haven’t decided on swimming, running or ballet, but will have to decide pretty soon,” she says. “I think going to the Royal Winnipeg Ballet will help.”
Wonacott is thrilled for her students.
“There’s nothing like it,” she says, noting she has been operating the dance centre for seven years but teaching for at least 35. “I went as a kid to the National Ballet. It’s a month of intensive study and these kids will come back about a year ahead (in their training). That’s how intense it is.”
Wonacott says the young dancers are chosen because of their
body type and artistic expression.
“Out of thousands that audition across Canada, they take 100, so for four to come from Salmon Arm is pretty impressive.”
There is excitement too, over at Just For Kicks Dance studio, where two of their dancers have been accepted to Royal Winnipeg’s summer intensive program and a third will go to the world-renowned Joffrey Ballet.
Winnipeg will be the month-long home for 15-year-old Kieran Allaway and, for the second year, Aria Izik-Dzurko, who is 12.
Kieran came late to the barre, compared to the others, discovering the joy of dance five years ago.
“I chose ballet because it was a base for other dances and I found that I like it more, so I dropped some of the others,” she says. “I like how it’s structured; there are rules and things and guidelines to follow.”
Kieran did not audition at the same time as the other dance students.
Just For Kicks ballet department head Sonja Woods, convinced her to send an audition video, something she did after taking private lessons.
“I was pretty surprised because the other kids have been dancing a lot longer. I am kind of the newbie – I’ve only seriously been doing ballet for six months,” she says. “I am pretty excited, but a little nervous.”
Woods says she saw Kieran’s talent and her connection to ballet and is proud of her dedication to add two private lessons a week to her three studio classes in order to ace the audition.
Out of town competing in a music festival and unavailable for comment, Aria has been dancing since she was five and has taken lessons in ballet, tap and jazz. Last year, the young talent indicated she likes to see how much she can push herself to become stronger and more flexible.
Just prior to press time came the news that Jose Weightman has been admitted to the Joffrey Ballet summer school.
“I’m out of my mind with this one,” raved Woods in a late-evening phone message. “This is brand new, we’ve never had something like this happen before.”
Congratulations also go to Just For Kicks owner Patty Fleming, who has been named the Shine Dance Festival Teacher of The Year.
This award is given to a dance educator who is a model of professionalism, provides inspiration and guidance, and who promotes community through dance.