Pittsburgh Ballet school student to compete internationally

| Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013, 9:11 p.m.

With her long legs out in front of her and toes perfectly pointed, Elenora Morris stretches and smiles while explaining why she loves ballet.

“I love how hard it is,” she says. “I love that you're always striving for perfection.”

The Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School pre-professional student has just finished practicing excerpts from two of the pieces she's preparing to take more than 4,000 miles away to Switzerland, where she will join 80 other dancers selected from around the world to participate in the 41st Annual Prix de Lausanne international ballet competition Jan. 27 to Feb. 2.

Morris, 17, of Ben Avon is among only five other females competing from the United States.

“I feel really honored,” says Morris, whose 5-foot, 8-inch frame appears even more elongated when she's gracing the stage. “It's very prestigious. I'm a little nervous, but so thankful.”

The competition and educational workshop is held for pre-professional dancers, ages 15 to 18, of all nationalities. It launched the careers of some of ballet's leading performers, including Carlos Acosta, Julie Kent, Darcey Bussell and Christopher Wheeldon.

Morris' teachers know their student's talents are worthy of the honor.

“Since the time I have known her, she has been extremely thoughtful and dedicated,” says Marjorie Grundvig, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre school director. “She has a great combination of physical talent and emotion.”

Morris started studying at the school at age 8. She performed with the company in productions including “Coppelia” and “The Nutcracker.”

“She is very talented, very smart,” says Pollyana Ribeiro, who has taught Morris since her childhood at the school. “Every technique — she grabs it like a sponge. There are not a lot of kids like that.”

Morris is the third female Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School student to compete in the Lausanne competition in the past two years, following pre-professional student Aviana Adams and former student Anwen David.

Throughout a five-day selection process, candidates participate in daily classical and contemporary ballet classes with leading dance professionals and perform a classical and contemporary variation for the Prix's nine-member judging panel.

At the close of the selection period, a select number of candidates will receive invitations to compete in the finals Feb. 3.

Morris, the daughter of David and Karen Morris, attends PA Cyber School, and has three siblings: Jennie, 12; Hanna, 20; and Thad, 22.

At the ballet school, she dances four to five hours a day, so the pace of the competition does not daunt her. She does struggle, however, to explain which form of ballet — classical or contemporary — appeals most to her.

“I love the discipline and the way (classical ballet) makes me feel. Contemporary is very much a release and a different way of moving the body,” she says.

She does know that whatever her future holds, ballet will be part of it.

“I love performing,” she says. “It's indescribable.”

Rachel Weaver is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7948 or rweaver@tribweb.com.

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