Dancers take centre stage in NYC

Victoria Academy of Ballet dancers perform at the Youth American Grand Prix finals in New York City April 22 to 29

Adrian de Leeuw and Oak Bay’s Yukiho Kiriu

Adrian de Leeuw and Oak Bay’s Yukiho Kiriu

Eight local dancers have a rare opportunity to perform on stage in New York in front of some of the best ballet dancers in the world.

Oak Bay’s Airi Miyata, Azusa Okamoto and Yukiho Kiriu, along with Miki Takahashi, Rin Nagakura, Yuka Otsuki, Marika Nakama and Adrian de Leeuw with the Victoria Academy of Ballet were selected to perform at the Youth American Grand Prix finals in New York City April 22 to 29.

“It’s pretty thrilling. We get to represent the school, the studio, the programs as well as the training and the dancers,” said Kerry Lynn Turner, director of the academy’s post-secondary bridge program.

“This is a lovely opportunity for them to be seen, as well as perform on a larger scale … it’s an excellent experience for them as they move into the professional industry.”

The academy has sent dancers to the grand prix in Seattle in the past, however, this is the first time dancers will perform at the finals in the Big Apple.

Six of the Japanese dancers will perform Danse Espagnole, a Spanish-inspired dance that’s vibrant, energetic and precise in movements and choreography.

Twenty-year-old Japanese dancer Yukiho Kiriu and 17-year-old Australian-Canadian dancer Adrian De Leeuw will perform the Pas De Deux from the ballet Coppelia, about a doctor who creates a life-size dancing doll.

In the ballet, the doll is so lifelike that Franz, a village youth, becomes infatuated with it and sets aside his heart’s true desire, Swanhilda. Swanhilda then dresses up as the doll, pretending it comes to life to show Franz his folly.

The duo will perform the final scene of the ballet in which Swanhilda and Franz get married.

According to Andrew Pronger, principal of the school and choreographer, the dancers complement each other in a ballet that’s very “tender and loving.”

“It’s very important to get the rapport between the two dancers,” Pronger said. “Yukiho has a lot of tenderness in how she works, she’s very soft in her dance style and we felt that would actually help Adrian with Pas De Deux to have his strength with her tenderness.”

The dancers, aged 17 to 20, have spent the last six months rehearsing for the two performances.

“I like that I can convey my feelings directly (through dancing) and see how the audience will feel,” said Kiriu, who came to the academy a year-and-a-half ago to learn a more contemporary style of ballet.

Though nervous to perform at a larger venue, the dancers are excited about the potential to be seen by other ballet company directors.

“Ballet is my favourite. It’s very special to me to perform on stage in front of an audience,” said Otsuki, who has been dancing with the academy for the past three-and-a-half years.

The Youth American Grand Prix brings together more than 1,200 dancers from around the world to participate in workshops, scholarship auditions and master classes.

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