Teen wins coveted dance scholarship in New York

2014-04-28 00:00

DANCE, dance, dance! That’s what La Lucia’s 14-year-old Chelsea Wewege will be doing when she heads to The Big Apple in two months’ time.

The talented young ballet dancer has been awarded a full scholarship to attend a five-week Summer School of Excellence in New York City at the end of June.

The modest, quietly spoken Chelsea (a pupil at Danville Park Girls’ High School) could not hide her excitement about the upcoming trip.

“It’s like a dream come true. I can’t wait to get there.”

The sought-after scholarship was awarded to Chelsea after an audition. She also achieved gold with distinction for her level 10 in the American Performance Awards — an initiative that was set up some years ago by Mignon Furman, a well-known dance doyenne in South African ballet circles.

When she settled in the U.S., Furman (who died in December 2012) initiated and formed the American Academy of Ballet in 1994, which organises the Performance Awards. The programme — which offers young dancers the opportunity to perform on stage — has become an international phenomenon in the dance world.

Auditions for the Summer School were held in Cape Town, Pretoria and Durban and one dancer was chosen from each city.

Chelsea will join about 300 dancers from around the world, who will converge on New York to take part in classes and workshops — dancing up to six hours a day.

The itinerary is a menu of delights with the dancers being exposed to a multitude of dance genres. From classical ballet, pointe-work and pas de deux to repertoire and contemporary, neo-classical, Pilates, jazz, Spanish dancing and yoga.

The Summer School also includes talent evenings and performance awards outings. And all dancers will perform on stage once a week.

The dance instructors come from prestige ballet and dance companies and institutions around the globe, including Russia, Paris, Germany and Australia. Top South African dancer, Iain Macdonald (of the South African Ballet Theatre) has also been invited to teach at the summer school.

The award comes after 11 years of hard work — Chelsea started dancing at the age of three — long hours practising every day and sometimes travelling considerable distances to get to class.

“But I love it! I love being in the studio and I love performing. I am never nervous when auditioning or doing exams.”

Mom, Allison, who will be travelling with Chelsea to New York and will be “housemom” to some of the dancers at the Summer School, recalled Chelsea’s first dance steps.

“She was always at the front of the playschool dance class when she was just three years old and I knew then that she belonged on the stage.”

Chelsea took her first ballet lessons at Susan Cleary’s Harlequin Dance School in Pietermaritzburg. When it became obvious in 2010 that her talent needed more advanced tuition, she would travel to Durban once a week, taking private lessons with Winsome Fuller’s Studio of Dance in Glenwood.

Once the family had relocated to the coast in 2013 the 90-minute ballet classes were increased to three times a week.

Chelsea now takes lessons four times a week and on Saturdays participates in three-hourly show rehearsals with the KZN Youth Ballet. She was accepted as a member in September last year.

The American Performers’ Award is not the first award that Chelsea has received.

Apart from always excelling in exams, her talent was first rewarded in 2012 when she was announced runner-up in the Lord and Lady Lurgan Bursary Competition. Last year, she was declared joint winner and named the most outstanding dancer, winning R1 500 prize money to be used for further dance tuition.

Before Chelsea and her mom can pack their bags for New York, however, she has a busy month ahead of her.

She will be doing her Advanced Foundation Exam on May 8 in Johannesburg, followed a week later by performing for the Elizabeth Sneddon Bursary with the Durban Dance Foundation. Chelsea will then be performing with the KZN Youth Ballet on May 17 at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre.

It seems all the world’s a stage for Chelsea and she is en pointe to get there.

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