Three talented dance students from Canberra’s National Capital Ballet School are one step closer to realising their dreams for the future.
Abigail Davidson, 12, Ky Trotter, 16, and the very articulate Soraya Sullivan - aged 11 but going on 15 - are about to pack their dance costumes and ballet slippers and head overseas.
Abigail is a finalist in annual ballet competition the Asian Grand Prix and heads off to Hong Kong in August to compete.
Ky and Soraya have been accepted into the Bolshoi Ballet Academy Summer Intensive program and will travel to Moscow in next month. Soraya will also take classes in Italy, Florence and Urbino before arriving in Moscow.
According to Abby, a primary school student at St Clare’s College, the "prix" is worth HK$30,000 (A$5100) for the younger group of finalists, of which she is one. That’s Hong Kong dollars but it is nevertheless a substantial amount. The finalists will gather in Hong Kong over five days to take classes, both classical and contemporary. Abby will have seminars to attend and performances to give during her stay in Hong Kong, and all activities will be watched intensely by an international jury.
In addition to the monetary award, there is a chance Abby could win a scholarship to continue her training at some of the best schools in the world, including the Australian Ballet School, the New Zealand School of Dance, the English National Ballet School and others.
Abby is dressed for our interview in a sky blue and white tutu as worn by the character of Cupid in Don Quixote, one of her favourite ballets. She hopes to join a ballet company - “a big one” - when she has completed her training.
The Bolshoi Ballet Academy, where Ky and Soraya will not only train but also live during their time in Moscow, has produced some of the world’s best dancers since it opened its doors over 200 years ago.
Some, like Natalia Osipova, currently a principal dancer with London’s Royal Ballet, have performed in Australia as recently as last year. The Moscow summer course includes classes in classical ballet, character and historical dance, male technique and partnering, repertoire and pointe work.
Ky is finishing Year 10 at the Rudolph Steiner School in Canberra this year and is planning to audition for the Australian Ballet School for entrance in 2019. As part of his Steiner education, he spent a year on exchange in Germany and speaks fluent German. Having lived as a student in a foreign country he feels he is adequately prepared to manage his time in Moscow, despite travelling there alone and not speaking any Russian.
“Besides,” he says, “They are meeting us at the airport, arranging our visas, and helping in other ways. And the students will come from many countries so not everyone will be speaking Russian.”
His favourite ballets are The Nutcracker, in which he has danced a number of parts and loves the role of Acteon in the duet Diana and Acteon.
As he lifts Soraya onto his shoulder for a photo, he looks like he is a strong dancer and could handle the spectacular steps and partnering of the Acteon solo with ease. Star dancer Rudolf Nureyev used to love performing it.
Soraya, a student at Radford College, is dressed for the interview in the pretty green costume for the Peasant Pas de Deux in Act I of Giselle. She is very clear about her future. She wants to continue her training in Moscow and hopes she might be offered a scholarship for that purpose as a result of her work in the summer intensive. She doesn’t speak Russian either but is sure she could learn.
“I love ballet more than anything,” she says. “And I just want to dance in Russia.”
Soraya oozes confidence, although she admits to being quite scared at the auditions she attended in Sydney when one of the teachers started shouting in Russian.
Abby, Ky and Soraya are part of the National Capital Ballet School’s elite training program.
“The elite program is quite special,” Soraya says.
“You have to audition and we have open classes so it gives us a chance to do things that are not part of our examination syllabus. We work on any particular technical problems we might be having and we learn solos and group dances and prepare for competitions.”
Both Abby and Soraya are hoping to take up training full-time next year, when they will have finished their primary school education. They both dance around 20 hours a week and say next year they will continue their academic education with distance programs.
That is if they aren’t offered scholarships elsewhere. As for Ky, if he is accepted into the Australian Ballet School he can continue his academic education through a special arrangement with the Victorian College of the Arts.
All three have big dreams.