Local dancers get an education at national competition

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photoMoriah Smith is one of three Columbia Dance Company members attending the USA International Ballet Competition Dance School.

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photoSteven Goforth is one of three Columbia Dance Company members attending the USA International Ballet Competition Dance School.

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photoCasey Hess is one of three Columbia Dance Company members attending the USA International Ballet Competition Dance School.

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In addition to volunteer costume designer Brenda Smith, three company members from Columbia Dance in Vancouver are attending the USA International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Miss. The dancers, Steven Goforth, Casey Hess and Moriah Smith, currently are at the competition’s Dance School. The two-week program began the weekend of June 12 and continues through next weekend.

During the two weeks, the dancers study with renowned teachers from around the world, attend the competition as observers and board with dancers competing in the event.

It’s an amazing opportunity for the three students, said Columbia Dance Artistic Director Jan Hurst.

“The faculty who are teaching in the school are internationally acclaimed,” she said. “They’re the cream of the cream. That is rare to have so many fabulous teachers in one spot.”

The three Columbia Dance Company members all said they hope to pursue dance as a career. Attending the competition’s school is a good step toward that goal, Hurst said.

“I am very proud of them and excited about the opportunity they’ll have for growth and development both as a dancer and as a person,” she said.

While at the school, Hess and Goforth will dance in the Regional Dance America performance, representing Columbia Dance Company in the Pacific region’s ballet, “Summertime.”

Smith, no relation to Brenda Smith, will be unable to perform because of injured feet, but the 15-year-old Battle Ground resident, who recently completed her freshman year at CAM High School, was still excited about attending the school.

“I’m really looking forward to meeting new people, new teachers in the dance world, to get to know people and get my name out there,” she said before leaving for Mississippi.

Goforth, a 17-year-old from Vancouver, also was looking forward to expanding his dance network.

“I’m really excited because I’ve really only performed in front of people locally and at the Regional Dance America-Pacific festivals,” said Goforth, who recently completed his junior year at the Vancouver School of Arts and Academics. “I’ll get to perform in front of a larger audience, a lot of pretty well-known people in the dance world.”

Later this summer, Goforth will attend an intensive session at Ballet West in Utah. He also will attend a summer intensive session at Columbia Dance, which Smith hopes to do as well if her feet have healed. She has tendonitis and plantar fasciitis in both feet and, as of early June, was in walking casts.

Hess, a 15-year-old from Portland, will be going directly from the USA International Ballet Competition Dance School to a summer intensive session at San Francisco Ballet. Hess, who just completed his freshman year at Grant High School in Northeast Portland, has been dancing since he was 4 years old, and was looking forward to further developing his skills this summer.

“I’m excited about seeing all the other great dancers and being inspired by them,” he said.