The Art of Emotion
Not too long after she started to walk, Kira Borrelli began dancing. The 2-year-old started dance lessons at East County Performing Arts Center (ECPAC) in Brentwood where she still practices to this day as a teen.
She started with ballet, tap, and jazz lessons. Her parents, Steve and Senya Borrelli, took notice of their daughter’s passion for dance and continued giving her dance lessons. “I just wanted Kira to be comfortable and confident in what she wants to do,” Senya Borrelli said. “As a mom, I feel so lucky to have given my daughter the opportunity to get trained by such talented people.”
She says the residents of Brentwood are lucky to have the great instructors who call the area home. ECPAC Studio owner and teacher Nina Koch is one of Kira’s great mentors.
“Nina is a strong, amazing woman who is a student of life herself, thirsty for knowledge and open to new ideas as well as change,” Senya said. When COVID-19 hit, she adapted and found a way to stay open by changing the classes to online. The teachers at the studio helped the students stay engaged by offering Zoom classes.
“It was hard to have classes online, but it got easier as time went by,” she said. “I am much happier now that we went back to regular classes.”
“My favorite thing about dance is being able to express my emotions through dance,”
Kira is enrolled in online school, so there is less school time; therefore, she has more time to dance. “My favorite thing about dance is being able to express my emotions through dance,” she said. She likes dancing after school and releasing what stress she has accumulated throughout the day.
Unfortunately, she recently injured her hip, so she had to take a break and has been taking it slow to build her strength back. She is enrolled in private ballet classes to improve her skills. “She has put in years of hard work and her hip injury has been an important part of her journey because the hardest thing for Kira has been taking a break from dance,” Senya said. According to her mom, overcoming adversity has been the biggest lesson; everyone right now is working through challenges with the pandemic. She thinks her injury is her challenge and she is working through it. She is going to physical therapy and modified workouts and classes. She normally dances eight to ten hours a week and still comes home to dance some more. Strength training, pull-ups, crunches, Russian twists, and squats are also part of her training.
There have been ups and downs and times where she was skeptical to try new things. Bart Schneider, the drama teacher at Edna Hill Middle School, knew she wanted to try out for the school play, so he and Kathern Lopez (Edna Hill’s dance instructor) encouraged her to try out. “Kira was lucky to have encouraging teachers there to motivate her,” said Senya. She was able to find her inner strength because of the support of the people around her. Kira has big plans in the future. Her dream might be on the stage but not just as a dancer, she also is exploring modeling and, as an honor student, she also plans on attending college.
Along with dance lessons, she has been in Glee Club since she was 4 years old. Her Glee Club instructor Heather Sandberg, of Studio 26, has also made a positive impact on her life. It is the only location of its kind in the area; the show choir performances raise money for charities like cancer research.
Koch also gives back to the community. She selected Kira for a full-year scholarship at ECPAC in 2018. As the winner of the scholarship, she received private ballet lessons with Stephanie Knudson. The lessons helped with technique in general and helped her achieve her goals. “Nina always had confidence in me and believed in me,” Kira said. “She is always proud of what I am doing and has supported me which has helped me grow and build more confidence in my dance skills.”
Koch and Lori Pitts (ECPAC tap teacher) have seen Kira grow up dancing in the studio. The Borrelli family has always respected their ethics. An example is how she approaches corrections. “It is amazing how she runs her studio,” she said. “When Kira was around age seven, she talked to her about corrections and instead of feeling discouraged, she walked away feeling empowered and motivated with a new sense of confidence.”
“She was able to find her inner strength because of the support of the people around her.”
Steve and Senya Borrelli also encourage their children to pursue their passions. After trying different sports, including soccer, baseball, tennis, cheer, and swim, Kira discovered through trial and error that dance was her thing. She has trained in classical ballet, tap, and jazz and has taken classes in every genre including hip-hop and modern dance. “In one convention, I had to dance in high heels, and I had to turn in them. I would say that was the most challenging dance I have ever done.”
She is required to take all genres for the multiple competitions she participates in. And as much as she likes learning new dances, sometimes she likes just dancing freely. “I think outside the box, and I like to try new dances,” she said. “I like how I don’t have to follow a teacher.” Dance competitions and conventions are a big part of the ECPAC team events that Kira has been competing in for years. Competitions offer classes that allow students the opportunity to be able to improve their overall dance skills in each genre.
There are 10 to 15 people per team, and she has been dancing with some of the same girls since she was young. She is also a part of a fun additional team, the ambassador team. As an ambassador, she has learned leadership skills as well as had the opportunity to greet new students and perform more.
Last year, she also received her point shoes (which is a big deal in the studio and dance world). In ballet, a dancer must hit a certain strength level to be on their toes, so the entire studio celebrates the dancer’s accomplishment.
Watching her daughter dance on stage and grow as a person and a dancer has been a highlight for her mom. “Kira has always been creative and spicy,” Senya said. “She puts 120% into everything she does.”
Recently, Kira had a photo shoot near a local farmers’ market. Her mom liked the photos so much that she decided to send a few to an agent in San Francisco. She now has a contract with Models Inc. to act and model.
“It’s a new journey, and I’m very excited about it,” said her mother.
When she isn’t dancing, Kira spends time with her two dogs, Mimi and Molly, and two older brothers, Colin and Peyton.
Photos By Melissa Christine Photography