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Sequins, salsa and spotlights are the order of the day for busy ACG Tauranga student, Aleksi Kilian. This talented dancer not only makes the complicated footwork of her Ballroom performances look effortless, but also confidently combines her training commitments with an active school life.
“I love both Latin and Ballroom dancing, but I must admit that I like Latin more than Ballroom,” Aleksi enthuses. “My favourite dance is the jive as it is really fun and cheeky, and you get to engage with the audience when you dance it.”
Aleksi started dancing in 2014 when she first met her long-time partner, Ryan. The duo instantly became firm friends and have been working together ever since.
Competing at the recent NZ Open Dance Championships, 12-year-old Aleksi and 15-year-old Ryan made every final in an exceptionally strong field, vying not only against the best couples in New Zealand, but some from Australia as well. Placing in all their Latin events, they were thrilled to be awarded one silver and three bronze medals. They were also incredibly proud of their third-place New Zealand ranking in the 8 Dance Competition (which is judged across all dances, Latin and Ballroom).
Being the highest-ranking NZ couple with both partners under 16, means the pair have been invited to represent New Zealand at the Under 16 Junior Latin World Championship in Italy this January. As the only couple selected from their age group, they are delighted at this incredible opportunity to shine on the international stage.
Training in Auckland with Ryan twice a week, Aleksi is especially thankful for the help and support she receives from the ACG Tauranga teaching staff, which allows her to keep up with academic studies while pursuing her passion for dance.
“At the moment it is not really too hard to juggle my schoolwork and dancing as my teachers and friends catch me up when I miss school,” she explains. “I work hard to stay organised and on top of my home learning and study.
“My teachers have been really supportive in helping me make sure that I have all my academic work up-to-date. They let me see them at lunch times and after school so that I can catch up faster, and they have really made me feel like I can be good at school as well as dancing.”
Additionally, Aleksi’s network of friends keep the young dynamo on track. When she returned from a competition trip to China, her peer group quickly helped get her up to speed with homework and study.
“My friends’ support is really important to me as I know that I can count on them to catch me up on the home learning that I missed. Everyone in my friend group has their own activities and hobbies. All my friends work really hard and so it is really nice to have people that understand what it is like. We all help each other,” Aleksi says.
While working with students from other schools and representing ACG Tauranga at STEMFest was one of Aleksi’s academic highpoints for 2019, on the dance scene her thoughts gravitate to a special once-in-a-lifetime experience she enjoyed earlier in the year.
“For dance, I have to say my highlight was going to China and being able to have a lesson with Palo. Palo is a Ballroom World Champion and an amazing coach. He really helped my dancing a lot, so I can’t wait to see what next year will bring.”