Langley ballerina Jessa Leroux (right) trains with instructor Irina Lavrova for her upcoming competition in Cape Town, South Africa.

The world at her feet

Langley ballerina Jessa Leroux will compete in Cape Town, South Africa Sept. 27 to Oct. 12

Jessa Leroux’ dance career is spinning into high gear, and it’s about to launch her across the globe.

The 19-year-old Langley ballerina has been invited to  Cape Town, South Africa, from Sept. 27 to Oct. 12, where she will compete against some of the best young dancers the Royal Academy form has to offer.

Leroux, who trains with Miss Irina out of Lavrova Academy on the Langley-Surrey border, earned the invitation last spring, receiving a mark of “Distinction” at the highest level of dance during her exams.

Although the spot was immediately available to her, based strictly on her grades, Leroux wanted to consider her options before committing to the international competition.

In March, she decided it was too good an opportunity to pass up, and began preparing to take on the world.

Although she has no idea how many dancers will be competing in Cape Town, Leroux can narrow down the countries of origin, based on the style of dance that is popular in any given region.

This is a Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) gathering, which means dancers will likely be coming from North America, Australia and England, but not from Eastern Europe, where the Russian style is preferred, she explained.

Leroux will perform three dances (hopefully) over two rounds of competition. The first round will narrow the field to 16. From there, the top dancers will be named.

She will perform a list of famous variations from the 19th century ballet La Bayadère, and from a 20th century version of Swan Lake, as well as one piece she will be assigned and begin learning once she arrives in Africa.

Each routine will be only about 90 seconds in length, Leroux said. But that doesn’t mean they won’t be challenging.

“They’re short, but quite intricate.”

Regardless of how she places, the opportunity to compete at this level is invaluable, she said.

“I can’t wait to watch everyone dance. It will be such a learning experience, I don’t care how I do.”

But it won’t be all business for the young ballerina and her mother, who will join her on the trip.

Leroux is hoping to take a small safari, though she’ll be many miles from the Serengeti.

She was also keen to find out if the strength and balance she’s been developing for the past 16 years will serve her as well on a surf board as it does a dance floor.

“But after watching Shark Week (on Discovery Channel) I’m not so sure,” she laughed.

Since she pulled on her first pair of slippers at age three, there’s been no looking back for the young dancer — unless it was in mid-twirl — although she admits there were times along the way when it was tough to watch her friends out having fun while she went off to practice.

Around age 13, the lessons get much more difficult and, frankly, a little dry, she said.

“There were definitely times when I said, ‘Mom, I’m quitting.’

“But  you push through it.”

By the end of the dance season, when the big year-end show rolled around, it was always fun again.

Dancing The Nutcracker every Christmas with the Royal City Youth Ballet has been another highlight of Leroux’ career.

“I love being on stage. I can’t imagine not dancing,” she said.

She’ll apply for a spot in the different dance companies, in the hope she can turn her talent and years of hard work into a paying gig.

There is also the teaching route, which she is already pursuing, taking on younger students at Lavrova Academy, knowing that even at the tender age of 19 she has, perhaps, another 10 years of solid dancing left in her.

“Getting to 30 and still being a dancer is not too common,” she conceded.

Leroux is also studying criminology and psychology at University of the Fraser Valley.

“It has nothing to do with dance,” she said. “But I thought I’d give myself a little back up.”

– Brenda Anderson

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