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Local dancers take a big-stage bow

Soul Funktion Studio dancers make the cut with Moscow City Ballet



It’s every little girl’s dream – to be up in the spotlight, decked out in the ubiquitous pink tutu and pointe shoes, gracefully leaping and pirouetting for a crowd of admiring ballet-lovers. Well, for two local dancers, that dream became a reality at the beginning of November when they had the chance to take the stage with the infamous Moscow City Ballet.

Shay Saver and Jamie Roote, both members of the intermediate foundations ballet class at Soul Funktion Studio in Function Junction, were two of 16 dancers who made the cut and landed a coveted spot in the Moscow City Ballet’s production of Sleeping Beauty, held at Vancouver’s Massey Theatre on Nov. 1 and 2.

“We have worked so hard to grow and develop the ballet program at the studio, and Jamie’s and Shay’s success is a success for our program and for all of our ballet students,” director of the studio, Codi Dalen, said in a recent press release.

Roote, a 13-year-old grade nine student at Whistler Secondary School, first donned her dance shoes at the young age of three. She’s been dancing with Soul Funktion for almost five years now, focusing mainly on jazz and ballet during that time.

For Roote, part of the draw of dance has always been the opportunity to be up in the limelight, performing for a crowd.

12-year-old Saver studies at home so she can focus more time on her dance, and hopes someday to be a professional dancer. So for her the opportunity to see and work with professional dancers and other behind-the-scenes people was, she hopes, the first of many career experiences.

Saver first immersed herself in the world of dance almost five years ago, experimenting with everything from ballet and tap to hip hop and lyrical. Now, she tries to stay versatile, but said ballet is her true passion.

An official with the Royal Academy of Dance — the style of ballet the girls study and perform at Soul Funktion — contacted the intermediate foundations class to let them know about the upcoming audition in early fall, and both Saver and Roote immediately knew they would be making the trip down to the city to try out.

Roote had heard of the Moscow City Ballet before, through the movie, “Bye Bye Birdie,” and was excited at the prospect of meeting new people and having the chance to work with such a prestigious organization.

“I didn’t know what kind of ballet style it was, or what it was going to be like,” Saver said, explaining that it was hard to prepare for the audition.

They were among over 60 dancers who showed up for the auditions in October.

“There were a lot of people there, mostly around my age group, and we had to do a dance and they weren’t looking for if we knew the dance and whatnot, they were looking for our performance,” Roote explained.

They were broken up into small groups, and evaluated for their presentation ability, a process that Roote calls “terrifying.”

“It wasn’t my style, it was a Russian style, so I was quite questioning whether I was going to make it or not,” Saver recalled, explaining that Russian style is more “flowy” and incorporates more arm movement.

But both girls left the auditions with big smiles on their faces – they’d been selected as two of 16 people to perform with the professionals.

After they were selected, the hard work wasn’t over. The girls didn’t have a lot of time to learn the routine – both local dancers traveled down to Vancouver each Friday to rehearse with the others who made the cut, most of whom were from the Lower Mainland.

“We didn’t actually get to see that much of them because they were so busy and they didn’t speak English, but we were watching them from behind the stage, they were really good!” Roote said.

But they had a chance to see the preparation, like barwork, that goes into the lead-up to a performance of this size and caliber.

“It was a once in a lifetime experience,” said Saver, “It was amazing – I’ll never forget it.”

Both Roote and Saver say they are keeping an eye out for other auditions like the one with the Moscow City Ballet, and plan to keep donning their dance shoes.