Shawn Morfini is gearing up for her first Manitoba winter. The former Garibaldi Highlands Elementary student is packing along a tutu to go along with her parka.
After spending the past two summers learning with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet (RWB) summer program, Morfini was invited to attend the year-long professional training and school program offered by the RWB. The full-time program runs from September to June, in conjunction with the academic school year.
Morfini said it was a thrill to catch the eye of the RWB.
“Originally my dance teacher said there was going to be auditions put on by the RWB in Vancouver and asked if any of us would be interested in going,” she said. “It was exciting and it was crazy, because a lot of the girls trying out that day were from the city and they do half a day of dance and half a day of school, so for me to get noticed was exciting.”
The RWB had interest in Morfini joining the full-year program last year, but she thought, at age 12, that she was a little too young to head to Winnipeg full-time. It’s been a lifetime of performing for the 13 year old, who said she started dancing at the tender age of three.
“A couple of my friends were into dancing at my day care and I got interested from there,” she said. “I joined the Howe Sound Dance Academy (HSDA) shortly after and have been dancing ever since.”
Shawn’s mother, Denise Morfini, said she noticed her daughter’s talent for dance early on.
“Shawn showed an interest in dance from an early age,” she said. “She always preferred ballet over other activities. She showed great passion, skill and dedication to her dance.”
Denise noted that Shawn’s time at HSDA helped her transform into the skilled dancer she is today.
“Shalimar Blanchard [HSDA director] has been very supportive,” she said. “She has provided Shawn and the other dancers with many opportunities to perform, the opportunity to complete graded exams and dance competitively.”
Despite being far away from home, Shawn said she’s enjoying her time at the RWB.
“I really love it,” she said. “It’s really amazing here.”
She lives on campus in a residence and her days are filled with dance rehearsals and school work. Morfini typically does school work in the morning and then hits the dance floor in the afternoon. If she decides to stay on for the high school program starting next year, her day will start with dance and finish with school.
Denise said it’s difficult to be apart from her daughter, but that it would have been a mistake not to take advantage of such a great opportunity.
“It was of course very hard for us all,” she said. “Shawn recognized that it would be an excellent opportunity to further her dance training. We do hope she has a long and successful career as a professional ballerina and perhaps has the opportunity to work with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet Company.”
Shawn admitted that she misses her friends and family, but they understand why she’s gone.
“I miss my friends and family a lot, but they support me a lot,” she said. “They know that I’m here to pursue my dreams and we talk quite a bit. I think I would love to one day become a professional dancer or ballerina. It would be really cool, and it would be an honour to join the RWB company one day.”
Shawn was back in town for Thanksgiving and plans to return over the holiday season. She added that she’s taking it one year at a time but could potentially spend her entire high school tenure at the RWB.
For more information on the RWB, visit www.rwb.org.