Senior Barlow trains with Pacific Northwest Ballet
By Amelia Spence, Reporter
Everyone has their passion, something that makes them tick, an activity they do just because they enjoy it. However, few people get the opportunity to pursue this passion as a career. Senior Duncan Barlow, a dedicated dancer who recently began training at the Pacific Northwest Ballet, is one of these lucky few.
Barlow has been dancing for twelve years, but when he first began, his goals were nowhere near what they are now.
“It began as a sort of a supplementary thing,” Barlow said. “I wanted to be in a play, and The Nutcracker was the first thing available. When I started, I wanted to be an actor.”
However, Barlow was quickly drawn into dance.
“There was a moment when I realized that a) there was a whole world outside Vashon and b) that world is worth going out and seizing,” he said. “I think the biggest [inspiration] was when I went to see Pacific Northwest Ballet perform Giselle. … The music was perfect, the costumes were perfect, the dancing was demanding and looked effortless … I couldn’t stop thinking about doing it myself one day.”
Barlow is working to accomplish his dream of dancing professionally. Though he is still a senior in high school, he is simultaneously training at Seattle’s PNB every day, taking online classes through Seattle Community College to keep up with his studies. This schedule is demanding, but Barlow is greatly enjoying the opportunity to attend the dance school.
“[PNB is] the company that made me fall in love with dance, and it’s considered one of the best companies and schools in the country,” Barlow said. “I’m training there seven days a week at the moment, and I couldn’t be happier.”
Barlow’s success is the result of his mindset, in which he focuses on always growing rather than reaching a set finish line.
“I’ve learned a lot about strength and art and music through dancing, but the biggest thing I’ve learned about myself is how much I can improve something by devoting enough time to it. I’ve never had the perfect, ideal ‘ballet body’, but our bodies and our minds are so much more elastic than we give ourselves credit for.” he said.
This attitude made Barlow an asset to his first dance studio, the Blue Heron, where he acted as a leader and helped his fellow dancers improve.
“[Barlow has taught me] that you can get better, even if you don’t think you will, and that you can push through injuries, even if you don’t think you will,” sophomore Arianna Vickers, who danced alongside Barlow at the Blue Heron for six years, said. “[He’s taught me to] just keep trying, because you never know where you might be.”
Those who have worked with Barlow are quick to mention his strong leadership.
“He was always trying to make us better … [with] a lot of leadership and kindness,” said Vickers.
Vadne White, a teacher at the Blue Heron, echoed this sentiment.
“[Barlow’s] encouraging nature was put to great use when [he] began to teach at VCA,” White said. “His students were infected by his enthusiasm, and came away from the experience feeling positive about their endeavor. Amongst his peers, he emerged as a leader who was guided by a love for his fellow dancers and a desire for quality.”
In addition to being a strong leader, Barlow also thrives working side-by-side with his peers.
“Duncan can work with anyone. He has a calm and warm demeanor that puts everyone at ease, and this is critical when “partnering” with his peers,” White said. “Duncan developed into an insightful partner for the dancers who were above him in rank, and later an encouraging coach for those who were new to this segment of dance.”
Barlow is working hard to achieve his dreams.
“My end goal is probably to be a choreographer associated with a major ballet company,” he said. “Obviously I want to be a company dancer somewhere, too, but the real dream has always been to create and direct art.”
White also has dreams for what Barlow will achieve.
“There are many avenues that Duncan can travel with his talents and qualities,” White said. “More than anything, I want him to be happy and fulfilled.”
Though he has been training in dance for many years, Barlow has not lost sight of what drew him to it in the first place.
“My favorite thing about dancing is the utter freedom it gives you,” Barlow said. “The feeling of the outside world vanishing and the world being simply the music and the movements is unlike anything else.”