Ladysmith dancer Kayla Henry has qualified for a prestigious international ballet competition in New York City.
Next month, the 10-year-old will compete at the Youth America Grand Prix New York Finals April 10-16. This international competition is the culmination of the Youth America Grand Prix season, which is considered the world’s largest global network of dance.
Kayla, who dances with the Kirkwood Academy of Performing Arts in Nanaimo, qualified for the New York Finals after competing at the regional competition in Seattle in January.
There are 12 different regional ballet competitions, and dancers who scored 95 per cent or higher qualified for the New York Finals, explained Kayla.
At the regional competition in Seattle, Kayla competed against 35 other dancers in the contemporary category.
“It was really fun because there were a lot of people from different places, and they were all really good,” she said. “It was just a really good experience.”
Kayla performed her ballet solo, which was choreographed by her ballet teacher, Chantelle Norris, for three judges and received scores of 94, 95 and 96.
Kayla has a bit of an idea of what to expect when she competes in New York because she has seen the movie First Position about the New York Finals, but no one from her dance studio has gone before.
“I’m looking forward to just watching people dance because there’s going to be people there from all over the world,” she said. “I feel good about it. I’m a little bit nervous, but I think it will be really fun.”
Each day, Kayla, who has been dancing since she was three years old, will get a chance to do workshops, and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and National Ballet School of Canada will be giving out scholarships.
There are three different age categories at the New York Finals — nine to 11, 12-14 and 15-18. Kayla will be competing in the nine to 11 category.
So far, there are 127 competitors in Kayla’s age category. There are 400 soloists in total in three age categories, and 1,200 dancers will be attending the event as soloists or group ensembles or invited for master classes.
Kayla says her goal for the competition is to dance her best.
Kayla has never been to New York City, and she is looking forward to travelling to the Big Apple. Her whole family is making the trip.
Kayla says she is very excited for the competition.
“I’m actually really proud of myself because I never really thought I could do this, but now that I have done it, it’s like a goal achieved,” she said.
Kayla has been dancing a lot more this year, as she spends half her day dancing and half her day doing school work at Kirkwood Academy of Performing Arts through the studio’s Pre-Professional Dance Program.
Leading up to the International World Championships, Kayla says she will be practicing her solo a lot and work hard in class on technique.
“This is an amazing opportunity for Kayla, for her to qualify for this international competition,” said her mother, Nancy. “When we went to Seattle, we didn’t know much about it; we just went for the experience. We need to go and experience this and see what lies ahead, what other opportunities there are and where does this dance world lead us. We know she has talent, but where does that go? We think it’s an accomplishment.”
Kayla says she doesn’t really know where she wants to go from here yet.
“I think I just want to keep dancing and training and working on my technique, but I also think it would be really nice to go to a school for ballet,” she said.
Last summer, she trained at Canada’s National Ballet School’s Professional Ballet Program summer school in Toronto. When the summer ended, she was invited back, and she plans to return this summer.