At just 14 years of age, Red Deerian Kelsey Miller has landed an incredible opportunity to study ballet at one of Canada’s most prestigious schools.
She has been accepted to train at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet (RWB) in their professional division. This opportunity follows a 17-city open audition tour that took place across North America.
As her mom Richelle points out, from that tour, about 50 to 70 youth are invited to RWB’s summer school. At the end of that week, between 10 to 15 are offered the opportunity to join the school, stay in residence and train on a full-time basis.
“A few years ago we were watching a movie called Tutu Much, and it was a documentary about some girls who were going into the Royal Winnipeg Ballet,” recalls Kelsey. She later saw a poster for an audition, and she thought it would be beneficial as an experience.
Ultimately, she was accepted into the 2011 summer program and was invited to stay that season. But the timing wasn’t quite right. Kelsey re-auditioned last fall and was again invited to the program for this year.
Kelsey will spend until next July at the RWB, balancing schoolwork with ballet studies.
It hasn’t been exactly easy for her parents to adjust to the idea of seeing their young daughter move so far away, but at the same time they are thrilled for her, and for such an amazing opportunity.
“Feedback from dance competitions, her own instructors and instructors there – they feel that she the potential to be a professional dancer,” explains Richelle.
Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet School professional division was founded in 1970, and it’s become one of the most respected training institutions worldwide for talented students aspiring to become dance professionals. The residence provides housing during the school year to up to 70 students between the ages of 10 and 18.
Kelsey had an early start – she started dancing at age four. “I didn’t start ballet until I was in grade three.” She had been studying jazz dance, and then an opportunity to try out for the local production of The Nutcracker came along. It really changed her focus.
“After that, I really wanted to do ballet badly,” she says with a smile. “I loved it.” Two years ago, she landed the lead role of Clara in The Nutcracker. “It was so fun. I had also understudied for that part for two years in a row before that, so I felt like I knew it.
“I love being onstage. And although some classes can be really hard, I feel like I get a lot out of it.
“I think that dancing boosts your confidence. It teaches you about your strengths and weaknesses, and how to deal with stressful situations.”
That passion for dance is simply intrinsic to who she is, adds her father Barry. “I’m so proud. I’m really happy for both our girls.” Their other daughter, Becky, is beginning studies at the University of Alberta this fall. She is studying nursing and has a scholarship to swim with Panda’s Varsity Swim Team.
“These are things they love doing so much, so I’m happy to see how much they want it. It makes it easier. We’ll miss them – absolutely – but they are going to do what they want to do.
“Kelsey can’t walk across the floor without doing a spin, or trying to stand on her toes or doing a twirl. It’s just her.” Her natural poise, posture and grace have also caught the attention of many people she’s met over the years.
Kelsey has been studying with Cheryl Tweet of the Red Deer-based Moved 2 Dance. Prior to that she studied at Red Deer College and also with Dance Magic Studio.
“She’s been with Cheryl for four years, and Cheryl saw something in Kelsey. She’s the one that really encouraged us to do a lot more hours of dancing each week.”
Kelsey agrees. “She’s so dedicated to all the dancers. She’s always there, and if you ever need to work on something she’ll work with you. I think she’s the main reason I’m the dancer I am today.”
Meanwhile, Kelsey is moving ahead with complete confidence. She has the maturity and poise of someone at least twice her age.
“I feel like I’m ready.”