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Broken shoe the harbinger of great things for dancer

Chelsea Blackett had never broken a pointe shoe before.

Chelsea Blackett had never broken a pointe shoe before. The 16-year-old ballerina has been dancing since she was four, and she's a veteran of numerous competitions and exams as well as prestigious summer training programs at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and the Banff Centre. But she had before never broken a slipper mid-performance - until she auditioned in January for the American Ballet Theatre (ABT)'s highly competitive Summer Intensive Program, when the shank of her shoe snapped in half in the middle of an exercise."I was really freaked out," Blackett said. But like a true professional, she ignored it and kept on dancing, thinking the instructors watching the 50 talented dancers at her audition class wouldn't care about her problems. Blackett said she left the Seattle audition feeling as though she'd blown her chance, so she was extra surprised to receive an e-mail about two weeks later telling her she had been accepted into the six-week training program in New York."I was really surprised, because in the audition class there were so many amazing girls," and because of the broken shoe, Blackett said.The Grade 11 student said she's both very nervous and very excited to join the approximately 200 other top-flight dancers at the ABT program in New York, one of five locations of the Summer Intensive across the U.S. There, top-quality instructors will expose the aspiring dancers to a wide variety of disciplines while focusing on classical ballet techniques and central tenets of the ABT's teaching curriculum. Most of all, Blackett said, she's looking forward to dancing alongside the best students from schools across the continent."I think it'll be a huge eye opener," she said, adding it will bring her to "a realization of what the dance world is about."Howe Sound Dance Academy director Shalimar Blanchard, who has taught Blackett for the last nine years, said she thinks that chance to train next to the cream of the crop will be the most valuable aspect of the prestigious summer program for her talented pupil."It reinforces that concept that a dancer's work is never done," Blanchard said, adding that she hopes the ABT training will bring Blackett closer to being offered a place at a professional dance company, if that's what her student wants. "If she wants it, she could have it," Blanchard said.Though Blackett said she isn't yet sure what part she wants dance to play in her future, she knows she wants it to be in her life somehow. She said she started applying to the prestigious outside summer programs a few years ago to enhance the solid technical training she's received from Blanchard and her school, where Blackett herself also helps instruct now in an effort to give back."[The summer programs have] opened my eyes to how amazing girls can actually be, where other girls are around Canada and where I should be," Blackett said. "You get a different perspective of what you should be working on."The busy ballerina leaves tomorrow (June 14) for New York after squeezing in two final exams this week and one of six end-of-year dance shows.

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