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By Ellwood Shreve
Chatham Daily News
August 27, 2013

Ben Alexander, 10, has been accepted to the National Ballet School of Canada (photo by Diana Martin) 2013


[Chatham, Ontario, Canada] – You never know where your inspiration to aspire to new heights will come from – all that matters is you follow through on it.

Ten-year-old Ben Alexander is about to take a huge step in attaining his dream of becoming a professional ballet dancer. The Chatham boy is leaving home in September to attend the National Ballet School of Canada. He will live, train and be educated at the prestigious Toronto school, after spending part of his summer auditioning to earn a place there.

Ben, who started dancing at age three, and has been training with long-time dance instructor Florence Abel since age 4, remembers exactly when he became inspired to take up dancing. “I started because I wanted to be a reindeer in the Christmas show my sister was in,” he said with a big grin.

Ben enjoys dance because there’s always an opportunity to grow and “I really love competing.”

Abel, who has had plenty of students accepted into the national ballet school over her 55-year instructing career, praises Ben for having “the strength and flexibility” to be successful at ballet, along having a “sense of imagination … and of course a love of dance.”

She believes a key factor for Ben being accepted into the national school is he was able to complete Grade 3 and Grade 4 of the Royal Academy of Ballet exams last year – it typically takes a year to complete one grade. Abel added Ben achieved this feat while earning high distinction marks, including 94 for Grade 3 and 86 for Grade 4.

While she will miss her student, Abel said, “I want him to follow his dream, that’s for sure.”

Ben, who had been attending McNaughton Avenue Public School, is ready to take on this new challenge. “I’m going to miss everybody, but I’m really excited,” he said.

Judging from the demanding schedule of the school, Ben will have plenty to keep him busy. He’ll be attending academic classes from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., which include an emphasis on the arts with such courses as the history of ballet and the history of art and music.

His schedule calls for him to be in the dance studio from 1-3:30 p.m. daily, before heading back to school for another hour. Then he heads back to the studio after class for more training. Students also spend Saturday morning in the dance studio.

Ben won’t be able to rest on his laurels just because he was accepted into the program this year. Every student must audition each year to keep their spot in the school. Ben said his goal is finish his post-secondary education at the national school.

His mother Cherie Alexander admits she’s going to miss Ben and it’s not easy to see him go off the school at such a young age. “My philosophy is my job (as a parent) is to give them (my children) all the opportunity to be the best adult possible,” she said.

Alexander said Ben has had great experiences with Abel and performing with Pure Dance Academy’s elite ballet company in Chatham. She is looking forward to seeing her son excel at his new school.

“It’s nice he’s getting pushed by other boys at his level and at his age,” she said, adding kids from around the world attend the school.

The national ballet school has two streams for post-secondary study – one for becoming a teacher and the other to become a professional dancer. Ben said he’s aiming to go pro.

The ballet he dreams of playing the lead in is Don Quixote, having been inspired by famous Russian dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov’s performance. “He’s my idol,” Ben said.

© 2013 Chatham Daily News

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