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Twinkle-tot to professional: a long and passionate road for local ballerina

When Charlotte Battigelli first toddled her way through the doors of the Victoria Academy of Dance (VAD) she was dubbed a “twinkle-tot."
Charlotte Battigelli
Victoria’s Charlotte Battigelli has been awarded a summer scholorship in North Carolina

When Charlotte Battigelli first toddled her way through the doors of the Victoria Academy of Dance  (VAD) she was dubbed a “twinkle-tot,” one of those adorable, if slightly uncoordinated little girls, moving to the music with grace and beauty.

Thirteen years later Battigelli, now a Grade 11 student, has achieved that grace in reality. An accomplished dancer and part of the academy’s professional training program, she recently placed third in the Youth American Grand Prix (YAGP) of dance in the senior classical ballet category.

It's been a long road, but along the way, Battigelli's love of dance has never wavered.

“My mother put me in ballet when I was three and I just loved it. Things just sort of evolved, and here I am. I still love it,” she said.

The academy requires Battigelli to complete all her academic work in the mornings and then make her way to the dance studio where she practices for three to five hours a day.

It's a rigorous regiment for a young girl, but Battigelli insists she really doesn't miss the usual teenage friendships and activities.

Battigelli's performance at YAGP has earned her a full scholarship this summer at the North Carolina School of Arts and an offer of a future academic scholarship at the same post-secondary school.

But Battigelli's success as a dancer is not unique within the student body of the Victoria Academy of Dance.

While most of the hundreds of aspiring dancers who make their way through the doors of the academy every week are simply seeking an exposure to the world of dance, a grounding in body awareness, and a lifelong appreciation of music and dance — for some it is much more.

For those dancers, a future in professional dance is a real possibility. They're the group who distinguished themselves by winning and placing in a series of competition categories at YAGP.

This year, three students placed in the top 12 senior contemporary category and four placed in the top 12 senior classical ballet category.

The academy dancers also took first place in the ensemble category and the VAD was awarded the outstanding school award in the prestigious competition for the second year in a row.

To put these honours in perspective, the YAGP reaches more than 7,000 dance students annually from 17 U.S. cities and six international locations. The competition can lead to scholarships, and professional and performance opportunities.

The love of dance and commitment of the senior dancers of the professional training program and the bridge professional program are at the heart of the academy's success in the competition.

The program has attracted students from Japan, Mexico, Australia, Europe and from cities across Canada and the U.S,

“Students who, like Battigelli, wish to particpate in the professional training program must be between the ages of 12 and 18 and must audition to be accepted,” said Elise Wren, with the academy.

Beyond the professional training program, the academy also offers a B.C. Ministry of Advanced Education accredited bridge professional diploma program in which students over the age of 18 prepare for a career in dance. The program accommodates about 20 dancers at any time and, according to program director KerryLynn Turner, all of the past graduates are working professionally in the dance world.

That's Battigelli's dream.

Although she is still unsure of whether she'll continue with the academy's bridge program or take advantage of the scholarship in North Carolina, she is certain of one thing — her days as a “twinkle-tot” are long behind her and she's now destined for the professional stage.