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Teen's fulfilling her dance dreams

Kenna Draxton has always wanted to dance.

"I started dancing when I was in South Dakota at my mom's studio," Kenna said during an interview at the Alice Sheets Marriott Center for Dance. "I took children's classes earlier, but I got serious about ballet when I was 7 or 8 and really made the effort."The perserverence paid off. Kenna, who is a Ballet West conservatory student and lives in Park City, participated in the 1998 Prix de Lausanne in Switzerland from Jan. 27-Feb. 1.

The Prix is an international competition that was founded by Philippe Braunschweig in 1972. It was created to help talented young dancers find their way to a professional career in dance.

There's no doubt about Kenna's talent. Her dance teachers, especially conservatory assistant artistic director Sharee Lane, have kept close tabs on the 16-year-old.

"I received information about the Prix while Kenna was away at a summer workshop in Houston," Lane said before she and Kenna took off to Switzerland. "I had my eye on a few students who qualified to go. But when Kenna returned, she informed me that she was interested. And I said, `Great.' "

Kenna was slated to dance Val Caniparoli's "Lambarena" and Balanchine's "Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux, Female Variation" during the competition.

The competition consisted of three rounds. First up was a classical lesson. Next, the "survivors" performed classical variations. And the last round was made up of contemporary lessons.

In addition to competing with other international students, Kenna was to take technique classes throughout the week.

But despite the pressure ahead of her, Kenna took a different view with she left for Switzerland. "I know there are going to be a lot of good dancers there. This is the time where I can see what my peers are going to be like. And I'll be able to see the different techniques and how the dancers around the world are growing. And I hope to also improve."

While the Prix would be a learning experience for Kenna, she was savvy as to her responsibility to the conservatory and the Utah arts community.

"She knows she is representing us," Lane said. "And we're confident that she will demonstrate the fact that we have strong students in Utah who are beautiful dancers."

Kenna's mother, Vicki Draxton, who was part of the University of Utah's ballet department in the early 1970s, wanted to be sure the Prix was something her daughter wanted to do. "I made her go through an exercise where she listed the reasons why she wanted to go to Switzerland.

"It doesn't matter if I don't win a medal," Kenna said. "I'm there to take part and observe.

"And I'm nervous. But I know there are many people who are going to be in the same boat."