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Nanaimo ballet students accepted into elite summer program

Six youths from Kirkwood Academy will learn from professional dancers and guest artists
Lilika Kovacs, left, Owen Whitehead, Aislinn Welburn, Naiah Kulla, Alie Scarletts-Ross and Makayla White were all accepted into the National Ballet of Canada’s summer dance intensive program in Toronto this July. (Mandy Moraes/News Bulletin)

Six up-and-coming ballerinas from a Nanaimo performing arts academy will spend part of their summer training in an elite program.

Earlier this year, Kirkwood Academy of Performing Arts dancers Lilika Kovacs, 14, Aislinn Welburn, 14, Alie Scarletts-Ross, 10, Owen Whitehead, 12, Makayla White, 13 and Naiah Kulla, 16, were accepted into the National Ballet of Canada’s summer dance intensive program. The program offers experiences in ballet and classical repertoire to more contemporary dances such as hip-hop, and annually accepts less than 200 students across Canada to provide the opportunity to learn from professional dancers and guest artists.

Auditions for the program this year were held online over Zoom, though pre-pandemic years saw in-person auditions. The students were asked to perform exercises that showcased their talent and artistry, and some were asked to improvise for creativity.

For most students, this will be their first journey to Toronto on their own without parents, although several have already taken similiar programs across the country. As the dancers are of different ages and levels, they will train in either junior or senior A or B levels.

“I’m excited to go to have a new chapter in my life to learn something new and do it by myself,” White said.

During the regular school year, the program also includes an academic component, but during the summer, the students will be kept busy with activities and field trips.

“First and foremost, I’m really looking forward to going away with everyone here. We’re all really good friends, so that’s something that’s exciting. And just meeting new people who have the same interests and aspirations as you,” Kulla said.

Scarletts-Ross agreed, and added that she’s excited about not only gaining new mentors but about seeing how different people in her age group perform.

Another aspect of the program that many of the students were excited for was the opportunity to dance with boys as well, as there are not many male students at the performing academy. The dancers are also interested in making long-distance friends with whom they can keep in contact over social media.

Two of the students also competed in the Youth American Grand Prix held in Seattle earlier this year. Welburn placed in the top 12 of the competition, and Kovacs placed second in the junior classical division and has been invited to perform in the finals in Florida next month to compete with international winners.

All six students also qualified for the Performing Arts B.C. Provincial Festival.

Carolé Martyn, artistic director and owner of Kirkwood Academy, said she is very proud of all her students.

READ MORE: On pointe: Nanaimo ballerina invited to National Ballet School

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Mandy Moraes

About the Author: Mandy Moraes

I joined Black Press Media in 2020 as a multimedia reporter for the Parksville Qualicum Beach News, and transferred to the News Bulletin in 2022
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