Dancing queen …only 17

Young Novocastrian Lilliana Eneliko loves performing on stage. Her dream of becoming
a professional dancer has just taken her half-way around the world, to San Francisco.

Lilliana (Lil) found her dream career when she was just five years old. Ever since, she has been pursuing it with graceful elegance, possessing perfectly tied ballet shoes and an awe-inspiring determination and commitment that makes the rest of us look like a bunch of hopeless slackers. Yet she does it with such humility and a maturity way beyond her years, one happily grabs a seat at the lazy kids’ table and raptly listens to her story.

“From the very first time I stepped on a stage in a school play when I was five years old, I knew that I loved performing, that I loved being on stage,” Lil says.

“And to this day, when I am on stage, I feel a bit like that little girl again who was performing for the very first time.”

A few years after that fateful first taste of stage fever, at age 11, she started training at Newcastle’s prestigious National College of Dance (NCD).

She names “Mr Gordon, Mr Burden and Mr Morgan” as her most important trainers at NCD. Asked about the formality of her list, she explains, “they are your teachers, your mentors, I just think you need to show your respect.”

Challenges on and off stage

During her time at NCD, she starred in a variety of high profile performances. “It is such an amazing school,” Lil says passionately. “I grew up with them and enjoyed every moment. Training there really set me up for all of this.”

After six years at NCD she has successfully auditioned for a coveted traineeship at Alonzo King LINES Ballet in San Francisco and is now ten weeks into her first year at one of the USA’s most highly rated dance academies.

Yet she is also a 17-year-old who is close to her family and knows she’ll spend ten months thousands of kilometres away, training five days a week, eight hours a day and be constantly auditioning for a spot in one of the academy’s performances.

She is living in a highly competitive environment where everyone is supremely talented and there are never enough roles. Add to that the physical and mental exertions of a career that is destined to be limited to a precious few years, and you have a pressure cooker environment that any adult will find treacherous to navigate, much less a teenager all by herself.

Read more in our Summer Edition of Hunter & Coastal Lifestyle Magazine or subscribe here.

Story by Cornelia Schulze, photography courtesy of Cveta Property