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Ava Girard: Aspiring ballerina takes on the world

Ava Girard, a 12-year-old ballet student who has advanced to the finals of the Youth American Grand Prix 2014.

Lane Turner/Globe Staff

Age: 12

Hometown: Contoocook, N.H.

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Think of: We’ll leave that to her teacher, Alexandra Koltun, a former principal dancer with Boston Ballet, who says Ava reminds her of her younger self. “I haven’t had one child like her in my eight years of teaching,” Koltun says. “She is a rare talent.”

What caught our eye: Poised, graceful, technically assured and confident, Ava just took home first place from a semifinal round of the 2014 Youth American Grand Prix, the world’s largest international student ballet competition. In addition to the top honor in the junior age Classical Dance category, Ava also took second place in Contemporary Dance. Since September, she and one of her parents have driven from their home an hour-and-a-half away, five days a week, to train at Koltun Ballet Academy in Watertown.

Lightbulb moment: Dancing since the age of 4, Ava decided she wanted to embrace both ballet and contemporary dance. “I like how precise and definite ballet is; there is a correct way to do things. But I also really like the freedom of contemporary dance. It makes me really happy when I dance.”

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Biggest thrill: “Performing, because I always feel like I’m not just doing what I rehearsed, but I’m doing something new in front of the audience that’s bigger and better, and I find that really magical.”

Biggest surprise: “Even though we do the same exercises and routines at the barre, it never really gets boring, partly because my teacher always corrects me. I really like having something to work on that I can always get better at.”

Inspired by: “Mainly my teachers and different dance performances that I’ve seen. At Jacobs Pillow, I saw 3e étage dancers, soloists who trained at Paris Opera Ballet, and their technique was amazing, and they used it to tell different stories.”

Aspires to: “I want to be a professional dancer with a company that does ballet and modern, then I want to have a company of my own and choreograph. I’ve performed some of my own work in end-of-year showcases.”

For good luck: “I have a little ceramic three-legged good-luck pig that my mother gave me, and I like to think he’s my good luck charm.”

What people should know: “It might sound like dance is my whole life, and it is a big part, but it’s not the only thing I’m interested in. I have close friends. We don’t have a TV, but I love to watch movies on Netflix — action, fantasy, adventure are my favorites. I’m home-schooled, and I really like biology and earth sciences and law. My mom teaches at a law school and we sometimes watch Supreme Court oral arguments. I take my studies seriously and want to go to college, but I don’t know if I want to dance professionally before or after.”

Coming soon: By winning a semifinal round competition, Ava joins 350 promising soloists from 30 countries in New York City April 3-10 for the Youth American Grand Prix finals. If she makes the cut, she will have the opportunity to perform at Lincoln Center April 9-10.

Links:www.yagp.org

Karen Campbell can be reached at karencampbell4@rcn.com.
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