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Keeping classical dance alive
January 16, 2010, 03:07 AM By Bill Silverfarb

Paul Carlson/Daily Journal Dominique Larose, left, will compete in an international ballet competition in Switzerland later this month.

Dominique Larose might not look like a world-class athlete at first glimpse, she is just 15 with a tiny frame for a body. But when she is on the dance floor her strength is easy to see.

Larose has danced practically all of her life and recently played the main child’s role in the Peninsula Youth Ballet’s production of "The Nutcracker.”

She came to fall in love with classical dance under the tutelage of Ayako Takahashi, who owns a dance studio in Belmont.

"It is such a great way to express yourself. It is really important to keep classical dance alive. It is an older art that shouldn’t die out,” Larose said.

Although Larose is not obsessed with being physically fit she does consider herself to be a hard-working athlete.

"There is a prejudice that dancers are weak or not athletes. If you see a performance, you will see that is not true,” she said.

The powers behind the 2010 Prix de Lausanne recognize Larose’s strength as a dancer as it has invited her to participate in the prestigious competition in Switzerland later this month.

It is such a prestigious affair that the Ayako School of Dance has never even considered entering one of its students into the competition.

Larose was invited to Switzerland after judges reviewed videotapes of three performances including classic, contemporary and her warm-up routine. A record 226 candidates, 153 girls and 73 boys, from 36 countries applied to participate in the video selection. Larose is one of the 81 dancers from 21 countries selected by the panel of judges to go to the next step of the competition in Lausanne. Only three girls from the United States will compete in the event.

Takashashi calls Larose a "lucky” young woman.

"The judges are looking for perfection. Larose has a good body, good feet, good musicality and good technique. If any one of these things were missing, she would not have been invited to compete,” Takahashi said.

A scholarship to a top dance school or even a place in a dance company is on the line at this competition.

Needless to say, Larose is a little nervous as the competition approaches.

Nerves or not, the Mercy Burlingame student is not shy to compete. In 2009, she won the honor of top senior female dancer and received highest score for her solos and Pas de Deux in the American Dance Awards, International Dance Challenge and Showstoppers. Larose also competed in the Youth American Grand Prix in New York last year and performed in front of 4,500 people at the New York and Lincoln centers.

Larose wants to have a career in dance but realizes how few jobs there are in the field. Getting an education, she said, is just as important. She also does not dance to fulfill any parental fantasies.

"My parents always support me to dance but don’t want to push me beyond my personal desire,” she said.

Larose has been dancing at Ayako’s since she was 6 years old. As she has grown older, she has now become a mentor for some of the younger dancers just as Takahashi’s daughter Mariko served as a mentor to her.

Both Ayako and Mariko Takahashi will accompany Larose to Switzerland for the competition.

The young Larose wishes more people took an appreciation for ballet.

"If more people were to go see a performance it would broaden society’s respect for the arts,” she said. "It helps you to respect the passions and dreams of others.”

The 2010 Prix de Lausanne is from Jan. 26 to Jan. 31.

Bill Silverfarb can be reached by e-mail: silverfarb@smdailyjournal.com or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 106.

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