Ballet dancer

Local ballet dancer scores near perfect in US competition

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A 15-year-old ballet dancer from North Vancouver is the first Canadian to win gold at one of the top international competitions in the United States

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Ashley Coupal, senior professional student at Goh Ballet Academywon first prize in the 14-16 year old category at the World Ballet Competition in Orlando, Florida.

She earned a near-perfect score of 9.850 in the third final round solo ballet performance.

Coupal will perform in Vancouver in August at World Dance Challenge.

Coupal said she was keenly aware of doing well as a Canadian in the competition which drew top dancers from 27 countries.

“I was going to this world ballet competition to represent Canada,” she said.

“I was the first Canadian to win gold at this competition — it really meant a lot to me. I really wanted to represent my country and show that there are not only good dancers in America and abroad, but also in Canada.

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Coupal was interviewed by phone from New York, where she has an intensive five-week paid summer contract with the American Ballet Theatre.

Coupal was born and raised in North Vancouver. She has been enrolled in Goh Ballet for a year as a senior professional student. She’s been dancing in Goh’s annual Nutcracker at Christmas since she was 10.

For the final solo, Coupal danced two classical variations: one as a peasant dancer in Giselle; the other a more regal section of Paquita. The idea was to show her versatility as a dancer able to inhabit different characters on stage.

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“It’s very important that a dancer not only be technical, but also able to show the artistry and elegance of the character,” Coupal said. “That’s mostly what (the judges) are looking for.”

The World Ballet Competition, for dancers aged 9 to 24, is held annually in Orlando, and the 12th edition was held in June.

Chan Hon Goh, director of the Goh Ballet, was in Orlando with Coupal when she won her gold medal.

Goh said Coupal’s success reminded him Celine Gittens. Gittens, who was born in Trinidad, grew up in Vancouver and trained at Goh Ballet. In 2005 she won both Gold and People’s Choice at the Royal Academy of Dance Genée International Ballet Competition in London. Gittens became principal dancer with Birmingham Royal Ballet in 2017.

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Goh said it was exciting to see Coupal win gold.

“I’m so proud to share that this homegrown talent has done so well,” Goh said. “It’s a vote of confidence in what we do. This is what we have always been proud of: giving and supporting young dancers with the best training possible.

Goh-Ballet was also recognized for his teaching in Orlando. The Best Teacher Award went to both Olga Iakovlevskaya, Senior Instructor, and Chan Hon Goh, for their work with Coupal.

Goh said Coupal’s gold medal shows that local dance students can receive high-level dance training at home without having to relocate.

World Dance Challenge the semi-finals will take place on Monday and Tuesday August 13 and 14 at the Vancouver Playhouse. The finals will take place at the Queen Elizabeth Theater on Wednesday, August 15.

Ashley Coupal in her final third round performance at the World Ballet Competition in Orlando, Florida.  Photo: Michael Cairns
Ashley Coupal in her final third round performance at the World Ballet Competition in Orlando, Florida. Photo: Michael Cairns Photo by MICHAEL CAIRNS /PNG

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