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December 2016 Featured Dancer

Emma Cilke

Emma Cilke

This month we are featuring Emma Cilke, from New Mexico. She is 11yrs old and currently performing as Clara in Nutcracker as performed by The New Mexico Ballet Company. We hope you enjoy Emma’s interview!

DA: How old were you when you started dancing?

Emma: I started taking ballet classes when I was two years old.  My first teachers were Nadya Zubkov and Susan Farsi at Arizona School of Classical Ballet in Phoenix, AZ.  I am still in touch with them and train at ASCB when I am in Arizona.  They really instilled a love of ballet in me! 

DA: What studio do you currently dance at?

Emma: I moved to New Mexico when I was 6 and now dance at Fishback Studio of the Dance in Albuquerque, under the training of Kathie Anthony, Diane Gutierrez and Stephanie Scott-Neiser.  I began to dance competitively at Fishback, and it broadened my love of dance to many different styles including contemporary and jazz.

DA: What is your favorite dance style?

Emma: My favorite style continues to be classical ballet.  I love the grace and discipline of ballet – it looks so light and lovely, but it’s really so difficult.  Every move needs to be perfect in order to create a beautiful line.

DA: Who has been the most inspirational teacher that you have had and why?

Emma: I am lucky to have had many wonderful teachers!  Miss Diane and Miss Stephanie have probably been the most inspirational.  They are petite like me, and have helped me learn to use my size to my advantage and to “look big on stage!”  They are always kind and supportive to me, and have also choreographed really beautiful dances for me to perform at competitions.  I am also grateful to Miss Kathie, the owner of Fishback Studio.  She saw potential in me when I was very young, and encouraged me to start training more seriously in ballet.

DA: Have you had any obstacles that you’ve overcome in order to keep dancing?

Emma: My size could be considered an obstacle – I am very petite, and really need to struggle to look “long” and achieve perfect ballet lines.  I just don’t have the perfect “ballet body.”  But, I try to focus on the positive.  I am compact and strong, and that helps me to be a good turner and jumper, and has helped me avoid injury so far.  And, there are definitely other small dancers who are beautiful ballerinas and perform professionally, like Misa Kuranaga of Boston Ballet.  I love this video featuring Misa, about how she used her DNA to #changedestiny:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R6HDugp9msQ .  I hope to be able to follow in her footsteps!

DA: What do you do when you feel as though you want to give up?

Emma: Honestly, I eat some Cheetos and watch funny videos on YouTube.  Give myself some time to wallow in it.  Then I remember how much I love to dance and I dust myself off and just keep going.  

DA: What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given during your dance career?

Emma: My best advice came from my Grandpa, who wasn’t a dancer but loved following my dance journey.  If I didn’t do well in something, he would say “If you’re not failing, you’re not trying hard enough!”  To me, that means that if you are going to try to be your best, there will be times when you fail – like, you won’t win or you won’t get chosen for a role.  But the fact of failure in itself means you have already won, because you tried and you are striving to be the best that you personally can be.

DA: What’s in your dance bag?

Emma: My flexi-stretcher, Capezio warm-up clothes, So Danca ballet slippers, Freed pointe shoes and pointe shoe kit, Lara bars, and butt glue!!

DA: Any plans for the future that include dance?

Emma: I am performing as Clara in New Mexico Ballet Company’s production of the Nutcracker through December 4th.  In January I’ll be auditioning for summer intensives.  Then I’ll be performing at YAGP and several other competitions.  This summer I hope to attend The Dance Awards in addition to a summer intensive in classical or contemporary ballet.

DA: Have a favorite dance convention or competition? If so, what makes it so special?

Emma: I love the Break The Floor conventions because of the ability to take classes with so many strong instructors and to win scholarships.  I also love YAGP because I get to watch and perform alongside so many talented ballet dancers, and I get really helpful feedback from professionals in the ballet world. 

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