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Yuma dancers on pointe
Alexandria Urias and Jacey Sims added more lines to their dance resumes when they were selected for competitive programs this summer.
After auditions at Regional Dance America's national festival in May, Alexandria was chosen for the Regional Dance America's Craft of Choreography, a two-week program in which she danced the works of emerging choreographers. Jacey attended a four-week intensive program with the Utah Regional Ballet and then stayed on for a two-week choreography program.
Both girls, who are high school seniors and members of the company at Ballet Yuma, were selected to attend on scholarships based on merit.
Alexandria's program, held at the University of North Carolina's School for the Arts, had her on a rigorous schedule, with daily practice in ballet and then modern or jazz. Every day gave her a new choreographer, from high school to college and older age, and a new piece to learn and then perform that night. Dancers also worked on a show for the program's finale.
“It was a lot of dancing, a very intense camp,” she said.
Alexandria, 17, was among about 60 dancers from all around the U.S. and Canada, and the only one from Arizona. She said each choreographer was creative and smart, with varied ideas and styles. She learned a lot about experimentation and just going for it, and how to pick up choreography quickly.
Some dancing was done outside the box — or more literally, outside of the studio. One piece put dancers on an outdoor cement staircase, dancing without music.
“My brain was just fried with choreography,” she said, but it was a good thing.
Kathleen Sinclair, who runs Ballet Yuma with her husband, Jon Cristofori, said Jacey has a natural talent with potential as a professional ballerina right out of high school, while Alexandria's strength in contemporary dance suits her to cross into that genre.
Showing her talent extends past ballet, Alexandria also scored a scholarship at the recent RDA national festival to attend a program at The Ailey School next summer. The official school of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York City, it is famed for its modern dance heritage.
Jacey's time with the Utah Regional Ballet in Provo impressed the director enough to offer her an extension of her stay and mention to Sinclair that Jacey, 17, could be a candidate for their professional company.
Jacey is still pondering going pro as soon as she's out of high school or going to college, where she can double-major in dance and a science field that will lead her to pharmacy school.
Both girls have been dancing since they were 3 years old. Jacey got into it as something to do with her cousin, and Alexandria did it at a doctor's suggestion to correct her pigeon-toed stance.
Both girls earned their scholarships while coming off of injuries.
Alexandria's was a stress injury to her hip, with tears in tissue around her labrum and strains to two connecting muscles. Jacey broke the process on her C7 vertebra doing a forward roll, and she had been dancing and walking on a stress fracture in her heel for months at around the same time — so after a stint in a neck brace, she ended up in a foot cast.
Jacey, a Yuma native and student at Gila Ridge High, said people say dance comes easily for her, but she knows she works hard. She's also attended programs with the Houston Ballet, the School of American Ballet in New York, the Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle and the American Ballet Theatre in Alabama. She said Utah was a smaller program that gave her warm, one-on-one attention and helped her get back in her groove at home.
Dance has been central to her routine for nearly her whole life. “I'd be lost without it.”
Alexandria is also a Yuma native and a student at Yuma High, taking a full class schedule even though she doesn't have to. She said education is important and she plans to go to college and on to law school.
She said she wasn't born with the best turnout to her hips, but she's worked hard and credited Cristofori and Sinclair for her success. She's also previously participated in the Joffrey Jazz and Contemporary Summer Intensive in New York City.
Dance is never boring, said Alexandria, because the more advanced you get, the more you can learn. There's always room for improvement, at least for yourself.
“Performance is just the world to me. I love the adrenaline rush, and I think dance is such a beautiful art.”
Ballet Yuma was the only Arizona group at the May RDA national festival and was again awarded Honor Company status. Several of its dancers performed on the closing night of the festival. Their piece, “Vicissitude,” was written by Joseph Jefferies and their costumes were designed and made by Grant Spencer, both Ballet Yuma alums.
Sinclair said she has high expectations for all of her dancers and that if they have the driven desire in their heart, they can carve out a niche.
“I'm sure both of them will find a place in the dance world.”
Hillary Davis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6857. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/YSHillaryDavis or on Twitter at @YSHillaryDavis.