Meghan Featherling is only 13, so her shyness and bashfulness are expected.
But it’s impossible not to notice the young aspiring ballerina’s natural talent, as she sits quietly in an empty dance studio at Stages School of Dance, talking about her upcoming journey to the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. As she speaks, her toes curl into a perfect point position, and her hands are clasped gracefully in front of her.
Meghan will be following in the footsteps of some very talented Cranbrook dancers when she enrolls at the prestigious ballet school on September 1, but she got there all on her own talent. Dancers at the Royal Winnipeg have to audition, and Meghan was one of the dancers selected to join the upcoming school year.
Sheri Green, Meghan’s teacher and the owner of Stages, said the young dancer proves that small towns can turn out big talent.
“With the proper training our small little town of Cranbrook is turning out professionals,” she said.
Meghan will join fellow Cranbrook dancer Katie Simpson at the school, and that friendship has helped her gain some insight into the year ahead.
“At least they’ll have each other there,” said Sheri. “They’ve kept a really great relationship.”
She has also heard from fellow dancers who have spent time at the school’s summer schools.
“I’m kinda nervous,” she admits.
Many great dancers have come out of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, but Meghan’s favourite of all time is Evelyn Heart.
“She started when she was older, but she could still keep up with the girls,” Meghan said.
Evelyn eventually became the principal dancer for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. Meghan hopes to follow the same path as the famous Canadian dancer.
“I want to be a professional dancer, like in a ballet company,” she said.
Meghan and her family will leave for Winnipeg on September 1. After a few days, her parents will leave her in The Peg where she’ll attend school and intense dance classes. It will be the first time she’s away from her family, but Meghan is determined to give it her all.
“I’m kinda scared but I think I’ll have lots of fun,” she said.
The school will be a great place for Meghan to transform and improve her dancing. She said she really wants to work on the arch in her foot.
It seems Meghan will have nothing to be scared of as far as her dance prowess, Sheri said.
“She’s a very gifted young lady.”
Meghan has been training with Stages since she was a toddler, beginning in classes at two or three years old. Dance has become more than a pastime for her, it’s become a way to express herself.
“I like how you can tell a story through it,” she said.
Ballet quickly became her favourite style for the fashion and the characteristic pointed feet.
“I like the tutus and pointe shoes,” she said.
Taking on ballet hasn’t been without its sacrifices. It took about a year and a half to get used to the tight, ribbon-tied shoes, and Meghan said it still hurts.
With the guidance of Sheri, Meghan has grown as a dancer.
“It’s really good,” she said. “Ms. Sheri is really technical. She’s helped me express myself not just through dance but through my face.”
When not learning herself, Meghan is at home working with younger girls in the very classes she once took as a child. The girls learn how to respond to dance and different ways to move their bodies. In Wednesday’s class, the girls worked with ribbons and pom poms, taking the baby steps needed towards learning a real dance routine.
Meghan’s help with the younger students will be missed when she leaves for Winnipeg, a bittersweet thought that is not lost on her instructor.
“I’m sorry to see her go, but so happy for her,” Sheri said. “It’s pretty hard to get that level of dance training when you have to go to school here in Cranbrook.”