Ballet dream

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Talented dancer Tāmati Graham, 13, is off to Canada on a one-year scholarship.
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Thirteen-year-old ballet dancer Tāmati Graham is packing his bags for Canada.

He has secured a new one year scholarship with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, and has already been selected for a main role in the annual Christmas performance, The Nutcracker.

It will be his first paid professional job.

It is another notch in his growing list of ballet endeavours, and another step towards his dream of a career in ballet.

The scholarship includes academic study.

Tāmati Graham’s dream is to have a career in ballet.

Tāmati leaves tomorrow but has already had a taste of what the school can offer after attending a three-week summer session scholarship.

It was there he was offered the new opportunity.

‘‘I really wanted to go,’’ he said.

‘‘The support there is really good. I was really happy (to receive the offer) but nervous as well.’’

He said he couldn’t have taken up the summer session without the support of parents Amanda and Kurt, and with the financial support of individuals and businesses in the district.

‘‘I’m thankful to the community for their support, which was really helpful,’’ he said.

In his latest adventure, his parents have refinanced the family home.

Kurt is making a whirlwind trip to Winnipeg with Tāmati to help him get settled in, and meet key people.

Tāmati officially left Ashburton College two weeks ago and since then has been spending time with his parents, older sister Chloe, and catching up with other family and friends.

He has also been filling in his days with dance practice, training with stretches and core exercises to help with balance.

Tāmati Graham, with older sister Chloe, also a talented dancer.

The reality of being overseas is starting to kick in. He will have his 14th birthday a week after arriving.

‘‘It will be hard to leave to all my friends and the family, that will probably be the hardest thing,’’ he said.

However he has FaceTime on speed dial to the family for whenever he needs it.

He is preparing for a cold winter in a city which has an average temperature of -20.7 °C. There will also likely be snow at Christmas.

Tāmati’s classes officially start early next week.

Ballet class runs from 8.30am to lunch, with academic study in the afternoon.

‘‘Usually we try to be in the studios an hour to an hour-and-a-half before class to warm ourselves up and stretch. Then we just go straight into our main ballet class, which we do every morning.

‘‘Then you would either have male variations class or the male coaching class afterwards, which you would just learn everything about how to dance like a male, and all of the steps that males do,’’ he said.

Ballet school includes nutrition classes to learn what foods help with energy levels and optimum health.

There is music, modern and character classes to learn how to portray a character through dance. There is also nutrition classes to learn what foods help with energy levels and optimum health.

Although he won’t have to cook his own vegetable and protein packed meals. They are provided.

‘‘They make the food for us. They have chefs, they make really good food,’’ he said.

There will be six days of dance, but no academic study on Saturdays.

The school provides housing during the year for 60-plus students aged between 10 and 18, and 120 students in the summer months.

‘‘(Students) were from everywhere in the world. There were people from Mexico…, Australia,’’ Tāmati said, of his summer experience. He was the lone Kiwi.

He is especially keen to resume his ballet training.

‘‘The teaching is the one thing I really enjoyed over there, I thought their teaching was tough and it challenged me. I learned a lot of things, I think that will be really good.’’

Tāmati said the school, which by chance is located on Graham Ave, is a five-storey building.

Three floors are dance studios and the other two levels are students boarding areas. It’s one person per room.

But he will not be alone after already making connections with other students through the summer school.

‘‘There are a lot of people who I met in the summer school who are going again,’’ he said.

Tāmati has been learning ballet since he was eight and of late earned a spot with the New Zealand School of Dance in Wellington. He was being mentored by Royal New Zealand Ballet dancer Josh Guillemot.

Tāmati studied with the Southern Ballet company, in Christchurch, under the instruction of Lioudmila Solovieva.

His dance rehearsals involved lessons in Christchurch four times a week, as well as at home.

He has an extensive repertoire that includes ballet, contemporary, jazz, hip-hop, lyrical, acro, and partnering classes. He also did many years highland dancing.