A Conversation with BSJ Apprentice Vimala Jeffrey-Howe

Vimala Jeffrey-Howe was recently promoted to apprentice at Ballet San Jose.

Vimala Jeffrey-Howe was recently promoted to apprentice at Ballet San Jose.

When Ballet San Jose announced the promotion of 22-year-old Vimala Jeffrey-Howe, a former Ballet San Jose School student, to apprentice in the professional company a couple of weeks ago, she called her parents immediately.

“They were so thrilled when I told them,” Vimala said. “They even sent flowers to my doorstep!”

Vimala was born in Tacoma, Washington. Her professional training began at Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet School, where she graduated on scholarship. Vimala continued her training with Ballet San Jose School.

“My whole family has watched me from the beginning,” Vimala told me over coffee a couple of weeks ago. “They know how much dance means to me and how much I desperately wanted to succeed and make it my life.”

Although she has worked with the Eugene Ballet Company and Ballet Victoria in Victoria, BC., Vimala moved to the San Francisco Bay Area to be close to Ballet San Jose specifically. She participated in the BSJS Summer Intensive last year and has attended many performances put on by the Company. I asked Vimala why she moved to San Jose and why she chose Ballet San Jose.

“I get a sense of professionalism from the company that reminds me of my Canadian training,” Vimala said. “I am grateful that they’ve given me this opportunity. They’ve seen me working hard and they appreciate that. It’s very important to me.”

While Vimala did watch and enjoy Program One, she said it was hard for her to sit still during the performance—she wanted to be up on stage dancing. And she can’t wait to see another story ballet on BSJ’s stage in May, Ben Stevenson’s Cinderella. The only difference is that this time she’ll be performing in it.

“I love classical story ballets,” Vimala told me. “I want to start my career with story ballets because of the acting opportunities. I think story ballets provide a really fascinating look at the history of dance and how ballet really began. I think it’s great that people still do these ballets around the world, giving corps members the chance to act in and learn the history of the works.”

In December, Ballet San Jose officially announced a partnership with American Ballet Theatre that means Ballet San Jose School will become the only institution on the West Coast certified to teach the complete ABT National Training Curriculum. Additionally, Ballet San Jose has implemented a new Trainee Program that will bridge the gap between training in Ballet San Jose School and dancing professionally.

“We are committed to providing a stepping stone to this sort of professional opportunity for our School students through our new Trainee Program,” said BSJ Principal Ballet Master Raymond Rodriguez. “Priority consideration for Traineeship positions will be given to students from Ballet SJ School, and we look forward to seeing a new generation of talent come into the company as a result.”

When I asked her what she thought of all the changes in the School, Vimala said she was excited to see where the partnership with ABT would go.

“It’s hard to see so much change all at once,” she said, “but I think it will be good for the School. I think it’s very exciting.”

Vimala will appear in the final two programs of Ballet San Jose’s 2012 Spring season: our “Program of Premieres” (April 13-15) and Ben Stevenson’s Cinderella, which will premiere May 4-6. In the meantime, however, Vimala will continue to bask in the knowledge that she is that much closer to fulfilling her dream.

“It’s finally happening and in the company I’ve been dreaming of no less,” she said. “Plus, I’ll finally be able to pay my own rent!”

Tickets for the “Program of Premieres” (April 13-15) are currently on sale and going fast! Visit www.balletsj.org to purchase tickets for the remaining programs in Ballet San Jose’s 2012 Spring Season, or call the Box Office at (408) 288-2800.

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