FOR 14 years, former National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC) dancer Alicia Glasgow held the record for being the youngest dancer recruited by the outfit. She joined at age 16.
However, last year, that record was eclipsed by Kristina Graham, who, at 15 years old, became the youngest ever to dance with the renowned dance company.
"It's amazing, really. Joining a company at this age is truly an honour. Having heard so much about the NDTC and then to be part of the company... it's exhilarating," Graham told the Jamaica Observer.
Graham, who is currently in her second season with the NDTC, recalled the day she was selected.
"I heard about the audition on the day, and my sister and I decided to go and try out. I just did what I was required, but it still came as an absolute shock and surprise to me when I was chosen to commence classes," she said.
But this was just a new phase for the petite teen, as she comes from a family of dancers and had practically been dancing all her life.
"I started dancing at two years old. My mother and sister danced with Tony Wilson's The Company Dance Theatre and I was always at the school watching the classes, so as soon as I could I joined in," said Graham.
She would continue with Wilson, but had influences from and experiences with Sandra Rose while a student and Mona Preparatory School in St Andrew. Her performances included the World Championships of the Performing Arts in Burbank, California, as well as the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission's dance category in the annual Festival of the Performing Arts.
Last Saturday, Graham stepped onto the stage at the Little Theatre in St Andrew for the gala opening of the NDTC's 50th anniversary season. For the curtain-raiser Graham was part of the cast of founder Rex Nettleford's The Crossing, a piece she says is her favourite NDTC work.
"The Crossing is the story of our history — the history of Africans and slavery. It really takes you back and was quite a learning experience for me," she said.
Graham also said she would love to perform Oneil Pryce's Barre Talk.
"It is so different. It embodies the NDTC style, complete with movement and technique, yet is so bold and daring."
This season, Graham shares the stage with an NDTC veteran, former principal dancer Melanie Graham (no relation), who has been brought out of retirement for the golden anniversary. This has been a source of inspiration.
"From the moment I heard she was coming back this season, I could not wait to see her perform. I can't get over how great she is. I have watched videos of her performing over the years and she is pretty much the same. She is so sharp with her technique and I have learned so much from her," Graham said.
Graham shies away from naming specific NDTC dancers she wishes to emulate, diplomatically stating: "Everyone is so different and brings their strengths to the company."
Despite her obvious passion for dance, Graham hopes to study medicine.