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By Richard Mays
The Manawau Standard
November 21, 2012

Rimu Kiritoshi, 10, has been selected as an extra for the Royal New Zealand Ballet's Giselle 2012Rimu Kiritoshi may only have been dancing ballet for a year, but when the acclaimed Royal New Zealand Ballet production of Giselle comes to the Regent on Broadway in December, he will be on stage with the company for a third time.

Rimu is only 10, but he is already a star ballet pupil at Marika McConachy’s Danceworks. He is no stranger to the world of dance however: Rimu has been in a hip-hop class since he was 4, and dances contemporary dance and jazz, but ballet is something else again.

His awakening to ballet came with last year’s RNZB production of Sleeping Beauty.  The RNZB often asks local dance studios for youngsters to audition for onstage extras’ roles. Rimu put his hand up, was selected, got to see the whole ballet – and was hooked. “I saw the men work, and it made me want to do ballet because they jump a lot,” he says.

From then on, it has been what he wanted to do. Since starting ballet at the beginning of this year, he has earned Distinction in his Grade 2 ballet exam in just three months, and won an Encouragement award at last month’s Palmerston North Dance Association competitions.

“[The adjudicators] give encouragement to people they really think have potential, even though they may not have the skill or expertise that dancers with more experience show. They see something there,” Marika explained. “To get an award at all on his first go is pretty exceptional.”

His abilities were recognised again in August when the company brought its production of Cinderella to town, selecting Rimu as an extra for a second time.

“It’s totally changed his life,” Rimu’s mum, Chiho, said.  It has also changed hers, as she adapts to the idea of being a “ballet mom”.

Rimu’s enthusiasm for ballet makes the young dancer something of a rarity – a young male in a female-dominated pursuit.

Close-Up recently examined RNZB’s “ballet blokes”, discovering that for sheer athleticism, strength, suppleness, stamina, discipline, co-ordination, balance, agility, masculinity, attack, and teamwork, no other sport comes close.

Marika agrees: “Ballet requires a certain boldness. It’s the intricate side of fitness; it’s just so strong. The only area where ballet doesn’t rate highly, apparently, is in hand-eye co-ordination. But there are always props in ballet and in dance, that require . . . dexterity.”

The dance teacher says one of Rimu’s strengths is his ability to pick things up quickly and retain them. And then there’s his growing familiarity with the national ballet company. Rimu is being mentored by Kohei Iwamoto, who’s own ballet journey started when he was 11.

Rimu’s success has given him confidence. He is more inclined to talk to his Hokowhitu School classmates about his specialised pastime. In the school production of Don’t Stop Us Now, director Dean McKerras let him help with choreography.

His next appearance will be in the Danceworks Showcase in the Regent on Broadway for two shows on December 1 and 2, performing 11 jazz and contemporary routines.

So what does this budding ballet dancer make of the traditionally classical Giselle which finishes its New Zealand tour with one night in the Regent on Broadway on Wednesday, December 12?

“I’ve seen it in Wellington already. It was awesome!”

© 2012 Fairfax New Zealand Limited

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