KIDS WITH DREAMS

W I T H   M I K A E L A   J . C A M E R O N  ( U S A )

Mikaela June Cameron is a 10-year-old aspiring ballerina from Manhattan, Kansas. She grew up at the dance studio going to watch her sister dance at one week old. At one, she insisted on wearing a leotard to watch her sister through the window. She formally started a creative movement class at Bates Dance Studios at the age of 2 and took her first ballet class at the age of 5. Mrs Gyll Bates, owner and director of Bates Dance Studio, taught her first ballet positions and steps and she performed in a Cinderella ensemble for her first ballet recital. After learning the basics in technique, Mrs Sladana Hudson inspired her to pursue Ballet and introduced her to Vaganova Ballet Technique.

At seven years and a passion for Ballet, Mikaela transitioned to Kansas Ballet Academy in Topeka, Kansas. Kansas Ballet’s syllabus is based on the internationally acclaimed Vaganova Method and tailored to suit the needs of American Student. While dancing there, Mikaela worked with their artistic directors Mrs Stephanie Heston and Mr Alexander Smirnov and started competing as a soloist with first-place awards at regional competition events.

*Note: Mikaela is the middle child in this promotional video https://vimeo.com/314883069

And last year at nine years, Mikaela had the opportunity to join the academy program at Kansas City Ballet School, under the direction of Mrs Grace Holmes, and had the privilege to represent the school at the Youth American Grand Prix as the youngest soloist competitor in the Kansas City Regional Event where is was awarded Top 12 in both classical and contemporary categories. This fall Mikaela has been invited to join the Kansas City Ballet School’s preprofessional day program with scholarship and is excited to see where the year will take her.

What is the benefit of ballet lessons for kids? What are the key advantages and disadvantages of Ballet?
First of all, Ballet is fun! All of Mikaela’s ballet instructors do dancing and taking class enjoyable. They have been friendly and willing to help each student. Ballet has several benefits for the body, mind and spirit. It gives confidence, coordination, strong and flexible muscles and, most importantly, the desire to learn more. Dancers are performing artists, and if you have a passion for it and enjoy the challenge, dancing makes sense. But drawbacks that come with pursuing Ballet as a career include low pay, rigorous work, limited opportunities in the arts, and risks of injury, among others.

What kind of personal skills do you think you’ll see in your daughter thanks to Ballet?
Through Ballet, Mikaela has learned critical interpersonal life skills. She has a knack for problem-solving, creativity, teamwork mentality, a “thick skin” and perseverance, unwavering dedication and a sense of self-discipline. Practitioners of non-verbal communication equipped with these soft skills have a strong ability to interpret and organize abstract concepts making them ideal employees of the future.

What has been her proudest moment as a dancer? What has been the most challenging?
This year Mikaela was selected to participate and represent Nikolay Grishko’s generation Program on social media. And through this program, she received a scholarship to attend Vaganova Academy Online Intensive through Russian Masters. Additionally, Mikaela audition for the Bolshoi Ballet Academy Summer Intensive program and was awarded a scholarship to attend their program in Connecticut. These two programs are Mikaela’s dream schools, and it was an honour to be able to participate in these internationally acclaimed programs. The travel is the most challenging part of being a dancer in rural America!

We currently live in Kansas town with limited access to the arts. Unfortunately, we live 2 hours away from a metropolitan city, and we travel to Kansas City for training. Due to the intense training structure of her ballet program, she stays with her Grandma several nights per week and travels up to 4 hours a day to make it to class on days that she goes home.

Is your daughter shy? What advice would you give to parents who have a shy child but loves Ballet?
Mikaela naturally tends to be shy in most situations, except Ballet! She doesn’t mind working alone or being with a small group of friends but doesn’t usually like to take part in larger groups like traditional school. If your child seems perfectly content to observe and a true introvert, that’s not necessarily something that can be changed. But if your kiddo wants to join others but feels stressed about it or embarrassed to try, that is probably just shyness, and there are things you can do to help work through it. 

Here are some tips that have helped Mikaela overcome shyness…

  • Prepare for new situations
  • When possible, acclimate slowly
  • Encourage communicating feelings
  • Don’t label your child as shy
  • Encourage politeness despite fears
  • Give praise and make corrections privately
  • Don’t be late
  • A good teacher is your best partner.
  • Let them coach your child
  • Let your child do what they excel at doing

How can parents encourage passion in their child, even when the parent doesn’t have that skill?
Passion is about life’s purpose and finding your authentic self. You either have it, or you don’t – it can’t be forced on them! As a parent, all we can do is teach them to follow their dreams and the fuel that passion by providing opportunities for participation, build supportive teams to help inspire, listen and react to their needs, teach them to make each day count and celebrate and praise each milestone.

How often and long does your daughter train?
For the 20-21 year, Mikaela plans to further her ballet technique by taking classes in Kansas City Ballet School’s Daytime Program. This program is an extension of their preprofessional division and is available for students on an audition the only basis. It is intended to offer serious ballet students with alternative academic study options. The program offers daily intensive training and is designed to prepare young dancers for professional pursuits. Ballet classes during the day and academic online classes at night allow motivated and passionate students to attend more hours each week. Mikaela’s program is a 5-day program with 20+ hours total per week Monday through Friday. Along with daily ballet technique and pointe, she’ll take part in additional classes including contemporary/improv, modern, repertory, character, conditioning, stretch, jazz, nutrition, pas de deux, the anatomy of Dance, dance history and physical maintenance.

What are your daughter’s dreams and ambitions? Do you teach her to have ambitions and to work hard toward those ambitions? Does she have some favourite
ballerinas?

Mikaela dreams of dancing professionally and aspires to be a principal ballerina at a renowned ballet theatre. With high ambitions and aspirations, her parents teach her the importance of setting goals (short, middle and long term), working hard to achieve them, having fun along the way and making a difference each day.

Some of her favorite ballerinas of today are Iana Salenko (Prima at the Staatsballett Berlin), Evgenia Obraztsova (Prima at Bolshoi Theatre) and the young Maria Khoreva (Ballerina at Mariinsky Theatre). And her favourite of all time is Anna Pavlova!

Why is it essential to encourage and motivate children to dance?
As mentioned above, Dance improves flexibility, coordination, balance, range of motions, stamina, muscle tone, strength and posture. But the physical benefit is just one of many Benefits of Dance and it enhances a child’s life is so many ways. Dance helps children develop emotionally, socially and cognitively. It develops the discipline and teaches dedication which are essential life skills that transfer over to other aspects of their lives.

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