Rick StiebelThe Chronicle,
When Kayla Henry was first offered the opportunity to train full-time with Canada’s National Ballet School last year, she politely turned it down.
That’s not surprising, considering the Ladysmith resident was 11 at the time. Following another successful summer program with the world-renowned school in July, Henry has taken the leap and moved to Toronto to train full time.
“Last year, I didn’t feel like I was ready to leave home at 11,” Henry said in a telephone interview from her school dormitory. “I wasn’t really expecting another invitation this year, but I knew it was a possibility because it had happened to other girls a couple of years older. I’m very glad I gave it the extra year.”
Henry admits it’s been a challenge to be away from friends and family at just 12 years of age.
“I miss my sister and my parents, but I feel much better prepared,” she noted. “All of the girls here now in residence were in the summer program, so I know all of them and that helps.”
Having the same roommate as she had in July has made her feel more comfortable as well, she added.
Henry’s schedule at Canada’s National Ballet School is demanding, with five hours of academics plus three to four hours of dance split up over the course of the day.
“The days are long and can be pretty tiring, but I really enjoy it here,” she said.
Henry started with ballet when she was three years old, inspired by her older sister, Meghan.
“I liked it right away,” she said. “I really enjoy dancing with Meghan whenever we get the chance.”
She views training at the school as a great opportunity to pursue her dream of becoming a professional ballerina.
“It’s absolutely definitely my passion,” she said emphatically. “It’s very difficult (to become a professional ballerina) but I would like to try, and learning at Canada’s National Ballet School is going to help me get there.”
When she’s not pursuing her dream, Henry enjoys an occasional movie night with friends and family, or a trip to an adventure park such as Wild Play.
“I don’t get to do it often, but I really enjoy it when I get the chance,” she said.
Henry lists The Nutcracker, one she has performed many times, as a favorite ballet, and is excited about preparing for a performance at Christmas with the National Ballet.
“I’m very familiar with it because we did it at Kirkwood every couple of years, and that’s why I like doing it so much,” she explained.
Jillian Vanstone, who trained at the school and is one of the principal dancers with the National Ballet of Canada, is one of Henry’s favorite dancers.
Vanstone spent time at Kirkwood Academy of Performing Arts in Nanaimo, where Henry trained as well.
“I would love to one day be considered in the same class as Jillian,” she said. “She’s just an amazing performer. I really want to thank all of my teachers at Kirkwood for helping me get to where I am today.”
Carole Martyn, owner director of Kirwood Academy of Performing Arts, said Henry is a dedicated student, and was chosen to represent Victoria at the provincial festival in Fort St. John in June.
“As a student, Kayla could often be found practising her steps alone in the studio for hours,” Martyn said. “She never misses classes, always worked hard, did her best and was very focused. It has paid off because now she is dancing at the national ballet school. Very few dancers across Canada are accepted into that program. All of her teachers and family hope to see her fulfill her dreams one day.”