CANTON − Nichole Belden fell in love with dance when she was 4 years old.
In the years since, Belden has studied 13 years with the Canton Ballet and has pursued her dream of becoming a professional ballet dancer. She reached that goal in 2019.
Because ballet is a relentlessly demanding craft, the learning never ends, which is why Belden recently became one of just a handful of Americans accepted into the English National Ballet School’s professional trainee program in London under the direction of Viviana Durante.
Nichole Belden performs locally: Canton Ballet returns to Palace Theatre stage with ‘The Nutcracker’
“Dancing with ENBS is a dream come true,” Belden said. “I am so thankful for the opportunity to study what I love in such an arts-enriched city as London. Being in an international city, I have been exposed to so many new forms of art and culture. When I am not dancing, I enjoy attending other live performances, exploring the city, and checking out all the beautiful museums. Once I complete my studies, I’d like to compete to dance with any large dance company or opera house.”
The daughter of Tim and Kay Belden of Sandyville and Canton, Belden was adopted in 2003 at age 2 from Guangzhou, China. The former Canton Country Day School student graduated a year early from Hoover High School in 2018 to pursue more in-depth and rigorous training at the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet.
She danced with American Repertory Ballet from 2019 to 2021 before returning to Ohio to dance as a company member with North Pointe Ballet Company in Cleveland.
Nichole Belden in Stark fundraiser: Canton Ballet’s Touchdowns and Tutus fundraiser returns for second year
London: A vibrant and dynamic dance scene
Belden also has performed with the Ohio Conservatory Ballet, Canton Ballet, American Repertory Ballet, and with company members from Atlanta Ballet and Canada National Ballet.
A graduate of the Academy of Arts University with an emphasis in photography, she will be in London until February, during which time she plans to apply for a Global Talent Visa, which would allow her to remain in Europe to work for five years.
“I just like the atmosphere here and the culture and, obviously, the ballet,” she said. “It’s a huge part of the arts here. They also have the English National Opera House, which is one of the best companies in the world. Moving to London has been a transformative journey that has opened up incredible opportunities for me to expand my ballet career on an international stage. The vibrant and dynamic dance scene in London has provided me with a rich and diverse environment to grow as an artist.”
ENBS faculty features dancers well-known in the ballet world, including Ibrahim Onal, Constance Devernay, Ivan Putrov and dance legend Daria Klimentová, former principal with the English National Ballet.
“It is such an exciting opportunity to learn from so many international stars,” Belden said. “Their classes are beyond inspiring and their wisdom and expertise are invaluable. I am so incredibly grateful for the opportunity to work with them.”
Belden began studying at the Canton Ballet in 2005.
In recent years, she has performed there as a guest dancer in “The Nutcracker.”
Asked if she might like to teach someday, Belden said it’s not time yet.
“Maybe in the future. Right now, I just want to dance,” she said. “During my time in this program, it is my personal mission to expand my international perspective by learning all that I can from the incredible ENBS faculty, engaging with my peers, and exploring new arts culture. My goal is not only to dance but also to inspire and connect with audiences through the emotive power of this art form.”
She envisions collaborating with other artists and choreographers to create innovative works that transcend traditional boundaries.
“These projects will not only enhance my own artistic growth but also contribute to the UK’s thriving arts community,” she said. “I am enthusiastic about sharing my knowledge and passion for ballet with aspiring young dancers in the UK. I intend to engage in teaching and mentorship programs to nurture the next generation of talent and contribute to the growth of ballet in the country.”
Belden said her favorite ballet is “Giselle,” the medieval tale of a beautiful Rhineland peasant girl and the two men vying for her hand − with tragic consequences.
“It was the first show that I ever performed, with the American Repertory Ballet, in New Brunswick, N.J.,” she said. “It has a special place in my heart.”
Belden is 22, ” the optimal age” for ballet, she said.
“You’re not fresh out of high school,” she explained.
She names Akane Takada, a Japanese ballerina and a principal dancer with theRoyal Ballet, as her favorite female dancer, whom she saw perform in the Royal Ballet’s production of ‘Sleeping Beauty.”
In Canton, Belden studied under former artistic director Cassandra Crowley, current Artistic Director Jennifer Catazaro-Hayward; Angelo Lemmo, former choreographer- in-residence; and guest teacher Laura Alonso.
Crowley, who recently retired, taught at the Canton Ballet for 43 years.
“She extremely talented as a dancer,” Crowley said of Belden. “I’m very proud of her. “
Crowley said she was happy to hear that Belden was continuing her studies in London.
“It’ll pay off for her, no matter what she ends up doing,” she said.
‘Be a sponge’
Outside of ENSB, Belden performs freelance work and as a guest artist/dancer as various events; most recently being invited to be a guest artist at a ballet school in Frieburg, Germany, for its production of “The Nutcracker,” where she will portray the Snow Queen, a role she performed with the Canton Ballet in 2017.
In addition to ballet, she’s also the owner of NBee Photography.
“Since moving to London, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to photograph local dancers and am currently collaborating on a fashion editorial shoot in the Scottish Highlands,” Belden said.
What advice does Belden offer for other aspiring dancers?
“My advice to younger dancers would be to ‘be a sponge,'” she said. “By this I mean absorb absolutely everything that you can. Every time you have the opportunity to take class, give it your all, be observant, and try to absorb all the feedback that you can. I have found that keeping a journal in my dance bag has been a easy way to record and keep track of all the information I receive.
“Enjoy the moments that you are in. There’s so much to learn. You’ll never be 100% perfect. When you think you know everything, something else comes along.”
Reach Charita at 330-580-8313 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @cgoshayREP