Ballet dancer

Ballet dancer in Big Apple | New

A young dancer from Penticton is about to fulfill her dream of becoming a professional ballerina.

Mimi Nordlund, 14, was one of more than 1,100 applicants from around the world to be invited to the five-week summer program at the prestigious School of American Ballet in New York.

Considered one of the best ballet schools, SAB is the official training academy of the famous New York City Ballet.

For Mimi and the other students, ages 12 to 18, the summer program could also be a stepping stone to the school’s full-time winter program, which is the stomping ground for ballet professionals.

A Grade 8 French Immersion student at KVR Middle School, Mimi began taking ballet lessons at the age of three and over the past 11 years has proven herself to be one of the youngest ballerinas most talented and aspiring women in Canada. Mimi was one of five Canadians to receive an invite this year.

“I guess I’m a little nervous but mostly excited to go and I’m ready to go,” said Mimi, who will be living at the school residence. “I think it’s going to really help me grow as a dancer and really help me improve my dancing.

“Apart from the dance part, there will be a lot to enjoy and it will be a lifetime experience I will never forget.”

Mimi is the youngest of Maria and Dennis Nordlund’s four children and her parents will be traveling with her to New York at the end of next month to settle her.

“I’m very proud of her, she worked very hard and I’m happy to see her get this award. It’s exciting and it’s going to be a great experience,” said Maria. “Honestly, I’m quite nervous to let her go, but I’m sure she’s going to have a great time.”

The School of American Ballet wasn’t the only dance academy to invite Mimi to its summer program, her talents also caught the attention of Canada’s National Ballet School, Boston Ballet and Arts Umbrella in Vancouver, all of whom sent invitations to the Penticton girl.

Was it hard to choose?

“No, no, definitely not,” Mimi replied quickly. “These are all very good schools, but by far SAB was the one to take because they have such a high ranking and I would have a better chance.”

Someone who was not surprised by his selection by the New York academy was his ballet teacher for more than a decade, Traci Bourne, director of Okanagan Dance Studios.

“I saw the talent in her straight away and I knew she had a chance but it’s (SAB) a very difficult school to get into, I thought she was brave just to take a chance,” said Bourne said. “You can have the talent, but you have to have so much more to get where she is, you have to have the dedication and the sacrifice and she has that.”

For Maria Nordlund, the importance of the training her daughter received locally is beyond doubt.

“We wouldn’t be anywhere without ODS and Traci,” she said. “Traci and her team of teachers have created a technically sound ballet program, but it’s also a great environment that’s warm and nurturing on all fronts.”

For Mimi and the other guests, this summer will be tough, according to Amy Bordy, director of public relations (recruitment and outreach) for SAB.

“It’s a very demanding program, from the first day of class the students are going to receive corrections and the teachers really want to see improvements and progress over the five weeks,” Bordy said in a phone interview from its New York office.

“So we choose students who will thrive in this setting, who will have a pleasant experience at the same time and get something out of it.

“It’s a unique experience, you have everyone at the top of their class at home coming together in one place and it can be an inspiring and rewarding experience on many levels, artistically and socially.”

The school operates out of the Samuel B. & Dave Rose Building on the 16-acre Lincoln Center complex on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

The center is also home to the New York City Ballet, the Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic.

Outside of class, students will attend everything from Broadway shows to New York Yankees baseball games.

But for Mimi, this summer will be all about dancing and at least for a little while, experience what it will be like to live her dream.

“It brings me so much joy when I dance, it’s such a beautiful art form to create and something I want for my future, to be a professional ballerina,” she said.