'I love it so much, it's almost automatic'

Huntington Beach's Tyler Donatelli, 15, trains at the Southland Ballet Academy in Fountain Valley and is on a professional track as a classical dancer.

May 09, 2012|By Imran Vittachi
  • Tyler Donatelli, 15, right, dances with Tara Gusman at the Southland Ballet Academy in Fountain Valley on Monday.
Tyler Donatelli, 15, right, dances with Tara Gusman at… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

The teacher has watched the pupil grow under a decade of tutelage.

Tyler Donatelli entered Salwa Rizkalla's Southland Ballet Academy in Fountain Valley when the aspiring classical dancer from Huntington Beach was 4 years old.

"She has extreme talent," said Rizkalla, who founded the academy at 9527 Garfield Ave. more than 30 years ago.

"You cannot tell early enough how the person will turn out, but Tyler possesses the qualities of a unique protégé ...," she added. "You can tell that she will be a professional — and a successful one."

Now 15, Tyler just clinched a pair of back-to-back honors at the regional and national levels that can only put her an en pointe flutter of toe tips closer to her dream of becoming a professional ballet dancer.

On April 28 in Los Angeles, she won the first-place award in the ballet category at the 24th annual Music Center Spotlight Awards at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.


According to a news release, more than 2,300 high school students took part in the year-long program that disburses $5,000 and $4,000 in respective scholarship prizes to first-place winners and runners-up who compete in a slew of performing and visual arts categories.

Tyler was one of two girls from Surf City who took home top honors; 17-year-old Elizabeth Romero, a senior enrolled in Huntington Beach High School's Academy for the Performing Arts, was the first-place winner in the nonclassical voice category.

And, only a week before dancing in the semifinal and final rounds of the Spotlight Awards, Tyler competed at New York's Lincoln Center as part of the Youth America Grand Prix, the world's largest international scholarship-based contest.

Tyler was the silver medalist among girls and women competing in the Senior Age Division, which is open to and female dancers ages 15 to 19. Although she didn't win the gold, Tyler outperformed a 19-year-old dancer from South Korea, bronze medalist Gayeon Jung.

Tyler's silver medal added to a bronze that she won at the 2011 grand prix in New York, while competing in the Junior Age Division.

"I'm so honored," Tyler said. "I was younger and just thought it would be impossible."

The roster of Spotlight Award winners listed the teen as a freshman enrolled at Huntington Beach High, which is where she was studying at the start of the 2011-12 school year.

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