If you have seen Helia Megowan perform during the last four years with NWDT, you can agree that her lines, musicality, and immense stage presence are both powerful and exquisite. One of the youngest to join the company, her work ethic and dedication to dance as an art form – both in rehearsal and in the wings – is tireless. She does not rest on natural ability.
Rehearsing Nikiya solo from La Bayadère for NWDT’s A Festival of Dance program
In addition to performing in NWDT’s A Festival of Dance on April 8-9, 2017, she will also be entering for her Advanced II Royal Academy of Dance examination at June Taylor’s School of Dance in early April. In the beginning of 2017, she sent an audition DVD to the highly prestigious John Cranko School in Stuttgart Germany and was accepted to their three year trainee program, which is free of cost and will conclude with an exam for her to became a “staatlich geprüfte Tänzerin” meaning a state-certified classical dancer. Besides dancing all day, she will attend classes in German, English, Sociology as well as Music Theory and History, Dance History, Choreography, Makeup and Costumes. Helia was also accepted this year to the Paris Opéra Ballet School Summer Intensive and was placed in the “Superior” level, as well as Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet’s summer program. She also received scholarship offers from San Francisco Ballet School’s Summer Intensive’s Program 2 and Houston Ballet Academy’s summer program. In 2016, she attended the School of American Ballet’s summer program on scholarship, attended class with Houston Ballet Academy over Spring Break, and in 2015 she attended the San Francisco Ballet School’s Summer Intensive first program.
You can see her perform the Nikiya’s solo in La Bayadère on April 8th and 9th, 2017, as part of NWDT’s spring mixed-bill program, A Festival of Dance. We will miss seeing Helia perform with all of us here at NWDT, but we are proud of her hard work and accomplishments. We wish her well and look forward to seeing what she will continue to accomplish as a dancer and a performing artist in the years to come!
Where do you train?
I train at June Taylor’s School of Dance.
When did you join NWDT?
I joined NWDT in 2013.
What is your favorite company memory?
My favorite company memory is actually all the time we spend together in the dressing room getting ready to perform. We listen to music, help each other with makeup, and talk about the upcoming performances. It’s a great environment to prepare for a show in because everyone is so positive and friendly.
What do you love most about performing?
My favorite part of performing is the feeling when I first appear onstage – the wonder that the audience feels is priceless, and the story I create for them is worth more than I can say. Of course, I also love the dancing because you can simply enjoy the steps, without having to worry about each specific moment. I’m in a totally different place when I’m onstage.
Performing Snow Queen in A Nutcracker Tea 2016 | Photo: Lindsay Hile Photography
What has been your favorite role to dance?
My favorite role was being the Snow Queen! The snow scene in and of itself is so beautiful, and I love the music. Getting to be a soloist in that part of the Nutcracker was an awesome feeling, and I think we really created a magical atmosphere for everyone watching the show. I also love it because it was created on me, so it showcased a lot of the things I did well 🙂
At SAB Summer School in 2016
What challenges have you learned to overcome as a dancer?
I have learned that not everything can be perfect on the first try, and that sometimes you have to be patient when trying to learn a step, or a piece of choreography, etc. I’ve also learned to put aside my own feelings and worries so that I can focus on the dancing, and not to let my apprehension or anxiety hold me back.
How has your work with NWDT helped your dance training and academic studies?
I have definitely benefitted from all the stage time, and the opportunity to perform bigger rolls for an audience. The rep we do is also very diverse, which I love. We perform both original classics and brand new jazz and modern pieces. That has really helped me stretch my abilities and range as a dancer. As for school, being at the studio all the time has made me really manage my time wisely so that I don’t have too much homework when I get home at night. I’ve learned to be more motivated and procrastinate less.
Who are you thankful for and who inspires you the most?
Rehearing role of Nikiya from La Bayadère
That’s a big question – I’m very thankful to my first ever ballet teacher, Damara Bennett, who let me know that ballet was really a possibility and instilled a driven, focused mindset when it came to ballet. She let us know that ballet was not just pink tutus and fun! This also would not be possible without my parents, who drive me to every practice and pay for everything from classes to leotards. I think we’ve spent close to $6,700 on pointe shoes alone! And, last but not least, Ms. June is the teacher who provided me with the skills and technique that I will ultimately need for a career in dance. Without her, there is no way I would be where I am today. She has been an amazing teacher, and a wonderful, caring person to work with. She pays attention to every detail and devotes so much of her time to us. I couldn’t be more grateful for her.
I’m also constantly inspired by ballerinas like Svetlana Zakharova, Maria Kotchetkova, and Natalia Ospipova, to name a few. I love watching my favorite companies and dancers!
What is your favorite piece/role in this year’s spring show and why?
It’s hard to decide! I love La Bayadère, first and foremost, because it’s such a classic and I have the opportunity to dance Nikiya’s solo in it (my costume is amazing!!!). We’ve worked really hard to match the original Petipa version. I also love our modern piece, Clear Vision, because it feels so good to dance and it has such a chilling effect. It is an awesome piece, and I really think it will leave a lasting impression on our audience.
What are your future plans and goals?
I have a pretty busy summer and school year ahead of me in terms of ballet! I’ll be spending four weeks in San Francisco at SFB’s second program in July, and then I am moving to Germany to train at the John Cranko School. I am extremely lucky to have been chosen for their three year trainee program, and I can’t wait to see what this opportunity brings! I’ll be training all day, but because I’m only a sophomore, I’ll also be attending school at night. It sounds pretty daunting, and the competition is tough, but I am so excited to be a part of the program – I might even get to perform with the Stuttgart Ballet! Thankfully, Ms. June has prepared me well for a program such as this one.
What lessons will you take away with you from your time with the company?
I have learned to really see things from other people’s perspectives – why they made this decision, why they are acting this way – and that, along with the ability to work with many different personalities, will be extremely helpful in “real life!” I’ve learned to put others first, to be patient and fair as part of a team. Yes, ballet is definitely an individual’s art, but you cannot be a soloist all the time. You work together as a corps just as much as you get to dance on your own, and it is important to understand that sometimes the beauty is not necessarily in standing out but in making a beautiful, living picture together.
What is on your mind as you prepare for your last NWDT performance?
It’s hard to believe that this is my last performance – that hasn’t really sunk in yet! I’m thinking about making the most of our time together, and working hard to create a wonderful performance that our audience will enjoy. I really want to get in character and make this our best show yet. I’m also so thankful to have been a part of NWDT, and I’m thinking about all the amazing people I would never have met if I hadn’t joined. I’m so lucky to have found them!
Warming-up backstage during A Nutcracker Tea 2014
Tickets for A Festival of Dance run $12-18 ($10 for youth)* and are available at nwdt.org/tickets. Showtimes are April 8 at 7pm to April 9 at 2pm at PCC Sylvania. Please contact 503-925-3898 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
*Performance week special offer: Get one free youth ticket with one adult ticket purchase when you enter discount code “freechild”.