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Stepping into stardom

Gillitts ballet sensation pirouettes off to Miami.

GILLITTS ballet dancer, Gabriel Ahrens is set to leave South Africa to advance his career by joining the Miami City Ballet on a funded scholarship.

Ahrens has been dancing since the age of 11 and his dance styles are primarily ballet but include contemporary/jazz/tap and latin.

With the 12 month ‘pre-professional’ program, Ahrens career ambition is to become a principal dancer at one of the world’s leading ballet companies.

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The 17-year-old is the leading male ballet dancer in KwaZulu-Natal and trains under Beverly and Kerry Hall.

He won ‘Dance Star’ Cape Town in 2018 and the prize to travel to Croatia to compete against other international dancers. He returned with three golds and one silver medals.

In 2021 he won the ‘Move’ competition in Cape Town.

Gabriel has just performed as the lead male dancer from the KZN Dance Company in the Durban Dance Movement Festival, that took place at the KwaZulu-Natal Playhouse in July.

Falling in love with ballet

Ahrens is an online student and in Grade 10.

When asked about how he chose ballet, he said, “Ballet was actually the last dance style I ever learnt but ever since I took my first class I fell in love with it. It is such a beautiful art form and I feel so free and at peace when I dance.

“My teacher got approached by the director of the Cape Town City Ballet asking about me and if I would come train with them after I performed a show for my studio at the time.”

His favourite moment is seeing the audience’s faces when he dances.

“It is so rewarding seeing someone enjoy what you do and I am so grateful for the people who will still come and watch ballets in the theatre.”

The young dancer confidently said he is currently the top male dancer in KZN in his level and age category.

Having recently won the Caryl Dixon Shield for Advanced 1 in Cecchetti in 2022, Ahrens said he got a 94% pass for that exam.

“I am currently completing my Advanced 2 Diploma, the first KZN male to achieve this distinction for the past 40 years, and according to the KZN Dance, perhaps only the second ever to do so,” he said.

The humble dancer said he was beyond grateful and feel privileged to have been given this opportunity. “I cannot wait to see where this adventure takes me.”

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Ahrens said he trains from a Monday to Saturday with Sunday as his rest day.

“I train for about five hours a day, I also think it is so important to know and understand how your body works and why we do the things we do and I have found that yoga/pilates are the best exercise to add.”

Speaking about the stereotypes, Ahrens positively said that nothing anyone says will ever make him quit dancing.

“Ballet is my escape from everything, it is where I go to not have to think about any stresses. The feeling I get from ballet is something truly amazing. If you watch most ballets there are always male leads alongside female leads. My one tip is that it is never too late to start ballet,” he said.

While the scholarship awarded to Gabriel covers most of the costs of the years program, he is required to raise funding to cover certain expenses such as medical insurance. Miami Ballet are assisting with this fundraising and have set up a Gofund.me.com profile on his behalf.

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