Local dancer heads to Royal Winnipeg Ballet School for second year

Ainsley Nivens, 13, is excited for new opportunities

By Emily Rogers

Red Deer Express

A local ballerina was given an opportunity to attend the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School for the second year in a row.

Ainsley Nivens, 13, is excited to be invited back to the ballet school, as she said it gets increasingly more difficult to go back each year.

She said the life of a dancer in training is not what one would see on dancing competition shows; it’s full days of practice, persistence and determination to master new steps.

“It’s a lot more work than people expect, everyone think it’s so easy, but you have to work your way up and progress quickly,” she added.

Attending the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School was something that Ainsley had wanted to do since she was six years old, when she brought a ballet book home from school to show her parents.

However, her journey of attaining her dream of becoming a professional dancer hasn’t happened overnight.

She has had to overcome obstacles that are unusual for young teens, such as moving away from her family and working to the point of exhaustion trying to master a new step in her dance routine.

“This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, I just have to get through it.”

She added, “I think in the big picture, it’s not the worst thing that could happen.”

However, Ainsley said she does have fun in the school’s residence and has met many new friends from all over the country who she still keeps in contact with.

Her new friendships have also benefited her parents, Shannon and Todd Nivens, as they now have an extra support system from parents going through similar challenges.

Todd said at times it can be difficult trying to explain to other parents why himself and Shannon are onboard with Ainsley moving far away in order to pursue her passion.

“It’s not about letting her move away; she’s her own person, she has a dream and a work ethic to realistically reach that dream.”

Todd added, “She’s not living her life for us.”

Ainsley later explained that it’s important for dancers to go to recognized dance schools, because dance competitions don’t have scouts looking for recruits.

Going to dance schools gives the dancers the opportunity to train and to perform, Todd added.

In order for dancers to perform they need to take formalized training.

Although Todd and Shannon are extremely supportive of their daughter, their family is still faced with expected challenges, such as being separated.

Todd said it’s difficult to help Ainsley with her bad days over the phone. He added, “It’s difficult to sit down for dinner as a family of three instead of four.”

Their family is overcoming these challenges to the best of their abilities by staying constantly in contact with Ainsley, even if it’s only a 10-minute phone call to check in.

“It’s remarkable for someone so young to have the passion and the drive that Ainsley has.”

The Nivens are also grateful for their community and for their support system of friends and family.

Todd said it’s gratifying and uplifting, and they are appreciative of the actions Red Deerians have shown for their family, by contributing to bottle drives, barbeques and giving donations when they were requiring it.

Todd later said it’s great to see strangers who are excited about careers in the arts that will stop and ask how Ainsley is doing in school.

“It’s all about encouraging Ainsley through the next step.”