Dancing for joy after winning US place

James Burchell has an extra spring in his step this week after being awarded a ballet scholarship to study at Vitacca Vocational School of Dance in Houston, Texas.

The school is ranked No1 in the United States for ballet, and the 17-year-old John McGlashan College pupil will study there for a month alongside some of the world's top dancers and tutors.

He won the scholarship at the recent South Island Ballet Awards in Christchurch and hopes to travel to Houston in November after his international baccalaureate exams finish.

He hopes he may be allowed to stay and continue studying through December and January as well, at his own expense.

He said the school was for secondary-aged pupils, who did class work in the morning and danced in the afternoons and early evenings.

``It's a bit like the TV programme Fame.

``It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

``I'm going to learn a hell of a lot.

``I'm only dancing part-time at the moment - 7-8 hours per week - whereas they dance every day from 1pm-7.30pm and that's going to educate me about what it will be like to be a professional dancer.''

James is particularly looking forward to working with former New Zealand ballet dancer Richard Bowman, who has danced with many international ballet companies.

James said he got into ballet by accident rather than desire.

His older brother and sister learned ballet and he only took it up when he was 8 because he got tired of being left at home when they went to rehearsals.

``I didn't take it that seriously for a start, but then a few years later I worked out I was quite good at it. So I kept going.''

James plans to study ballet at the New Zealand School of Dance next year and has dreams of one day dancing with the Royal New Zealand Ballet.


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