- Associated Press - Saturday, June 4, 2016

HENDERSONVILLE, N.C. (AP) - Anna Yokote is a budding track star for Hendersonville High School, but she also happens to be a dancing princess - one of 12 dancing princesses, that is.

Yokote is a dancer with River Arts Ballet in Fletcher who recently performed in “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” at the Masonic Temple in Asheville.

And when she’s not performing pirouettes, the freshman is leaping over hurdles.

Yokote qualified for the state indoor track finals in the 55-meter hurdles and as a member of Hendersonville’s 4x400-meter relay team. She was the only freshman to qualify across the 1-A, 2-A and 3-A classifications in the 55-meter hurdles.

Even though Yokote cut short her indoor track season this spring because of her commitment to the ballet, she managed to become the No. 1 seed in the Western Regionals in the 100-meter hurdles and the No. 2 seed in the 300-meter hurdles.

While other track athletes were competing in the Western Regionals and the state finals, Yokote was rehearsing for the ballet in which she will not only be one of 12 dancing princesses, but she will also have a solo.

She hated to give up track this season, but was committed to her dance team.

“I decided that it was OK,” she said. “I had already deemed myself responsible for this other thing that people were depending on me for.”

Yokote has been in and out of ballet since age 3. She’s danced her entire life, but ballet had never been her favorite. She was more into jazz, tap and lyrical, but last year, Yokote decided to give ballet a closer look.

She’d just joined River Arts, and there were plenty of classes to choose from.

“I went into it not knowing what I wanted to do,” Yokote said.

Ballet drew her in.

She devoted herself to it by practicing three times per week. She earned a spot in the ballet and rehearsed for it on Saturdays as well as the three practices. She began to love it like she did the other dance forms.

And she’s good at it, her teacher, Christina Schreivogel, said.

“Because she’s so athletic, she’s got a phenomenal jump,” Schreivogel said. “She does have a talent. We see the dedication too. That’s a lot of it.”

Yokote dances a solo in the ballet, and that solo was choreographed to suit her talents, Schreivogel said.

“We choreographed the dance to be jumpy based on her athletic ability,” Schreivogel said. “She has beautiful leaps.”

Yokote also plays trumpet in the Hendersonville band, and that instrument was added to her solo composition. And while she’s good at leaping across a stage and the dance floor, she’s excelled naturally at leaping hurdles on the track, Bearcat track coach Pam Bolton said.

“She’s just an athlete,” the coach said. “She’s a natural athlete. So much of that is because of the ballet and dance. She has such body awareness.”

Yokote is the first freshman in Bolton’s long career to perform the hurdles in three-step form. The technique usually takes time to master.

While ballet helps Yokote physically, the biggest help might be the mental side, the freshman said.

“I think a lot of it has to do with confidence,” she said. “In ballet and track, I get really nervous.”

The combination, however, has settled those nerves.

“If you make a mistake, it’s OK,” Yokote said. “You can always get better from that.”

Getting better is one thing that both Bolton and Schreivogel are certain that Yokote will do. Both gush at the potential the freshman has going forward - a potential they expect will go beyond the stage and the state track finals.

“That’s really phenomenal on her part to be able to balance (all she does),” Schreivogel said.

The real potential, Bolton added, will flourish once Yokote decides where her focus will lie. Until then, the coach has enjoyed watching her excel already.

“She’s got some special gifts,” Bolton said.


Information from: Times-News, https://www.blueridgenow.com

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