Arts and Entertainment

Young dancers show dedication to their art

Left, Nikita Baryshnikov performs in Act 1’s “The Nutcracker” in 2011; right, Lena Takechi. - Courtesy
Left, Nikita Baryshnikov performs in Act 1’s “The Nutcracker” in 2011; right, Lena Takechi.
— image credit: Courtesy

Age is merely a number. The young dancers at Kirkland’s International School of Classical Ballet (ISCB) show that passion and determination are what counts.

Nikita Baryshnikov, 10, Alisa Reynya, 12, and Lena Takechi, 15, show that their young age says nothing about their dedication to the art. Living in Redmond, they appreciate the city’s small and diverse community since they are originally from different areas: Nikita from Wisconsin, Alisa from Russia and Lena from Japan.

“It’s an area where you can meet people from all over the world, I definitely love it here,” said Lena.

The ballet school’s class sizes are small, giving students an opportunity to learn from instructors on more of a personal level. Both instructors and students come from all areas of the world, bringing their own perspectives.

The different perspectives create an opportunity for students to learn about various cultures and traditions. Nikita recently started taking character dance, a representation of traditional dances from other countries.  It’s the exploration of other cultures, and the ability to break away from traditional dance he normally does, that has caused it to become his favorite class other than ballet.

“I love character dance because I’m able to learn about dances from different countries, and it allows me to constantly switch things up,” he said.

Nikita and his partner recently qualified in all categories for nationals in June, and his main focus is ballet. Both Alisa and Lena share this interest. Since joining the Pre-Professional Division Program, Alisa spends six days a week in the studio practicing all forms of dance, but she describes herself as more of a classical person and enjoys ballet the most. Lena practices five days a week with ballet, jazz, tap, modern, character, flamenco and ballroom — and especially enjoys being part of productions. For her, being on stage is like being in another world.

“Countless dancers start dancing after watching a performance and fall in love with the movements, the costumes, the turns and the stage. I would wish to be a dancer that sparks someone’s inner dancer,” she said.

Although dancers at ISCB have busy schedules, they still find time for other interests. Nikita used to play tennis and fence, but now plays with his remote-control plane during his free time. Sticking to her classical tendencies, Alisa enjoys playing the violin when she’s not dancing. Lena used to play piano and ice skate, but now she uses her free time to hang out with friends.

The young dancers find ISCB to be a fun space to express themselves and harness their physical abilities. In addition to molding their talent individually, Lena said they are like a family and work together to improve despite the fact they might be competing with each other for roles.

It’s important for them to do well, and Alisa said that it’s hard for her to see the things she does well in a performance. When asked about proud moments, she said that it’s a difficult question to answer because as a dancer, she is often very critical of herself.

“When I look at myself dancing I think something along the lines of ‘That was so badly done! I did so many things wrong,’” she said.

The hard work is all with a purpose in mind. At a young age, all three have big goals.

Alisa dreams of being a prima ballerina in the Kirov or Bolshoi Ballet in Russia, and Lena wants to be a choreographer or dance teacher at a theater in London. Nikita hopes to be a professional dancer, and is often told that he has a big name to live up to. He shares a last name with famous Russian dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov, and despite the fact there is no known relation, he hopes to follow in his talented footsteps.

With big dreams, these young dancers have a lot to look forward to.

Mary Coughlin is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.


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