She’s The Ballerina Pirouetting Her Way To Boston!

2020 03 13 featured story 03It’s not every day you’re accepted into an international Summer Dance Program, but Pacific Hills student Katrise Folland has done just that!

From 28th June to 1st August, the Year 9 student will soar to new heights as she undertakes an intensive program at the Boston Ballet School.

The Baulkham Hills local has been dancing since she was three and a half, after being born with hip joints that caused her feet to turn in.

“A family friend who is a prosthetist suggested ballet because they had heard it could gradually push out Katrise’s bones” her mother Liz explained. It turns out ballet was the perfect solution for building the muscles around the joints and no surgery was required.

Katrise has been attending the Robyn Kirkland School of Ballet in Castle Hill for the past eight years which Liz believes has helped to foster her daughter’s love for ballet. There, she is taught by Ms Kirkland who has become a mentor figure for Katrise.

“She helps me improve daily and gives me advice on what I need to work on, what’s important and what I should strive for. She challenges me to do my best”, said Katrise.

The hard yards have clearly paid off as Katrise has competed nationally in dance competitions and eisteddfods including Windsor/Hawkesbury which she won on her first try! In 2016 she was a finalist in the Genee International Ballet Competition which is organised by the Royal Academy of Dance of London. Last year, Katrise was the youngest dancer cast in the School’s musical, ‘Mary Poppins’. Katrise also danced with the Queensland Ballet Summer School and attended the International Summer School.

It is no small feat for Katrise and Liz to get to Boston. Katrise will need six pairs of pointe shoes, with one pair alone costing $160! Thankfully, they’ve got a supportive team behind them including Karen Matthews, NSW Area Manager of Bloch in Rouse Hill. Karen is generously supplying accessories needed for training.

One reason why Katrise is heading to The Boston Dance School is that they celebrate diversity through ballet, meaning her ‘differences’ such as her Filipino heritage and 145cm height will be celebrated, rather than looked upon negatively.

“I’ve been at dance competitions and it’s been implied that I don’t fit the ballerina mould”, said Katrise. “We’ve had people come up and say it’s not that you aren’t a beautiful dancer, you just don’t look like a ballerina”.

A role model who has inspired Katrise to keep dancing is Misty Copeland, the first African American to become Principal Ballerina at the American Ballet Theatre. Misty is 157cm and shorter than the average ballerina height of 167cm. Katrise was so inspired by Misty that she chose to speak about her in an English speech contest in Year 7 which saw her reach the finals!

Ms Kirkland has been so supportive in getting Katrise to the US that she helped her create an audition video.

Jen Hovarth, Katrise’s Contemporary Teacher has helped her create mind maps about upcoming competitions within Australia and the next competition Katrise is working towards is the Isobel Anderson Memorial Award in NSW.

When asked what she loves about ballet, Katrise summed it up simply.

“I love the way I can express myself not just through my facial expressions, but throughout my whole body and make my whole body tell a story”.

Katrise has had to make sacrifices in her pursuit of making ballet a professional career and had to catch up on school work, however it has only made her more determined to succeed.

“Ballet and contemporary are my two main styles of dance because I can challenge myself throughout it. With ballet particularly, I feel like I know myself more and it’s not a choice, it’s my lifestyle”, she said.

Throughout her 11 years of dancing, Katrise has been told that she has a unique story to tell and that it’s even more important she dances as she’s a Christian connected to the Creator of our bodies. Liz and husband Geoff are very proud of how far their daughter has come and they see an inextricable link between dance and our Creator.

“Katrise can bring a rare story of hope to the world. God’s love can penetrate the arts, come alongside people, love them and show them he’s the author of the body”, added Liz.

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