Ballet dancer

North Van ballet dancer wins international honors

Goh Ballet’s Ashley Coupal is the first Canadian to win the gold medal at the World Ballet Competition final

When North Vancouver resident Ashley Coupal was a young girl, her parents noticed her talent for dancing. When they played music at home, Coupal would start moving, and surprisingly in rhythm, for someone his age.

So they did what many parents would do: they signed up Coupal for ballet lessons. Fast forward to 2018 and Coupal, who is now a senior professional student at Vancouver’s Goh Ballet Academy with the goal of becoming a prima ballerina, has just achieved a major feat in the world of ballet. At the age of 15, she was the first Canadian to win a gold medal at the World Ballet Competition final which took place June 10-16 in Orlando, Florida.

The international competition, which saw dancers aged 9 to 24 from 27 nations compete, including the Philippines, Korea, China, Italy and the United States, is one of the most respected in the world. ‘industry. And although Coupal trained six to seven afternoons a week after spending her mornings studying at Carson Graham High School, that success was not a given.

Throughout the competition in which she danced in the pre-professional category (14-16 years old), Coupal held a solid second place. But it was the last two dances, including the last solo ballet performance of round three where she scored a near-perfect 9.850, that propelled her into first place to win the gold medal.

When asked what it felt like to win such a coveted title, Coupal said, “It was amazing. I couldn’t believe when they called my name. I couldn’t have done it without Chan (Hon Goh) and his father (Choo Chiat Goh, who also works with the Goh Ballet Academy). He really brought out the artistic side of me.

Goh, the prima ballerina who directs the prestigious Goh Ballet Academy, says, “I am very proud that a local student, especially one from the North Shore, is making her mark on the world stage. The competition was made up of as many jurors of international standing. This is a big vote of confidence for Goh Ballet.

Goh and another Goh Ballet Academy instructor, Olga Iakovlevskaya, were also honored at the World Ballet Competition: both teachers received the Best Teacher Award for their dedicated work with Coupal.

Along with the support of her teachers and family, Coupal also cites hard work, prayer, thorough warm-ups and visualization techniques as helping her perform at her best in her final two Competition dances. ballet world. “[When I visualize] I imagine myself doing the whole routine exactly how I want to do it… It helps me get into the zone and it calms my nerves,” she says over the phone from New York, where she is currently spending a summer. of five weeks. intensive training at the American Ballet Theatre.

Her ability to embody the characters she embodied in her performances was also important, as the judges graded the dancers on their artistic performance as well as their technical abilities. In one dance, Coupal played the aristocratic Paquita; in another, the elegant Giselle.

Coupal says she celebrated the win in Orlando with her dad, who is a huge supporter and accompanies her to all of her competitions. “Dad and I celebrated by going to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and going out for a nice dinner,” the young dancer explains.

Coupal and his father also have a series of pre-competition rituals. “We have our secret handshake that we do. He always gives me pep talks, helps me stretch, makes sure I’m organized and on time, and of course carries my luggage! Coupal said.

It’s the kind of support Coupal will continue to need as she strives to achieve her goal of becoming a prima ballerina with a major company. “American Ballet Theater is definitely where I want to end up,” she says. “I’ve been watching their ballets on DVD since I was a baby.” Coupal is currently excelling in her training in the academic/ballet program at Goh Ballet Academy and in 2019 she will be graduating from Goh Ballet Youth Company.

In the coming months, Coupal will participate in two other competitions for which she will prepare with Chan Hon Goh: the Global Dance Challenge which will take place from August 7 to 15 in Vancouver and another competition which will take place in China in October. Coupal will also begin rehearsals for Goh Ballet’s 10th anniversary performance of The Nutcracker which will take place at the Queen Elizabeth Theater from December 21-23.

For budding ballet dancers who want to be where Coupal is one day, she has this advice: “Don’t give up under any conditions. Know that you are worth it. Whatever you love to do, pursue it and work hard.