Dancing toward their dreams

Three Squamish girls to hone their talents at prestigious ballet schools

As children our minds are filled with hopes and dreams. For three local youths, those dreams are a step closer to reality.

Asia Sinnes, Sarah Bowers, and Shawn Morfini of the Howe Sound Dance Academy will be dancing through the summer, attending separate summer intensive programs at prestigious dance schools across North America.

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Sinnes, 13, will attend the Boston Ballet School, while Bowers, also 13, will attend the American Ballet Theatre in Detroit, and Morfini, 11, will join the Royal Winnipeg Ballet for the next five weeks.

According to instructor Shalimar Blanchard, opportunities like the ones the girls have before them are rare.

"There's not a lot in the way of scholarships. It's not just the ability to go there - oftentimes it's a family decision, and it's so good that their families are so supportive of them. They've got an incredible amount of talent and it's very rare but it's not always so recognized, especially because ballet is an art and it doesn't always get the same recognition as hockey or soccer," Blanchard said.

"Not very many students get accepted to the programs that these girls have gotten into."

Representatives of the three schools make trips across Canada and the United States, selecting only a handful of students to join them for the summer.

"In Vancouver alone you would have 35-45 students auditioning, and out of each audition class, maybe one or two might get accepted because the organizations travel across the country," said Blanchard.

Morfini was one of those selected from the many students gathered in Vancouver while both Sinnes and Bowers were selected from among more than 60 students in their schools' auditions in Seattle.

For the three, it's as if their hard work and sacrifice has paid off. Most people don't realize how much hard work and commitment is involved in the art of ballet, Blanchard said.

"Just in case anyone thinks this is easy, there is a lot of time that has gone in on their part," she said. "They dance a lot of hours; they don't dance just a couple of hours a week. They are up to 10-12 hours of dancing a week. If there are exams, competitions, or a production like Nutcracker coming up, that will jump up to 16 hours a week."

For the girls, the summer programs are just another step in the learning and growing process, Blanchard said.

"They have to be pretty tough. They're the strongest kids in class here, but they're about to be in classes that are a whole bunch of really strong kids. Sometimes the first few lessons are realizing, 'This is where I stand in all this.'"

Throughout the years, about a half dozen kids from the Howe Sound Dance Academy have gone on to similar summer dance schools. This will be the second summer for Sinnes, who previously attended the Royal Winnipeg Ballet.

The girls may have been given a great opportunity for the summer, but there is still a lot of work to be done. Blanchard said.

"You're never finished working. You're never finished perfecting your technique," she said.

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