Laguna Beach native Skylar Campbell, 27, a recently-promoted principal dancer with the National Ballet of Canada, is coming home.
But this visit will bring little rest for the internationally renowned and award-winning dancer, who will make his Orange County debut during the Laguna Dance Festival’s “Stars of Dance” program October 6 and 7 and then immediately jet back to Canada to prepare for a tour of Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia — a first in the company’s 67-year history.
It is a busy season in life for Campbell, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“When you’re on stage, you just feel like you are truly in a different world,” said Campbell. “It is contagious to me, being in the spotlight and communicating with an audience in such a unique way.”
When the 14th annual Laguna Dance Festival opens next week, Campbell will take the stage alongside other standout performers such as principal ballerina and “Breaking Pointe” TV reality star Beckanne Sisk, several “America’s Got Talent” finalists, DIAVOLO/Architecture in Motion and New York’s Complexions Contemporary Ballet.
Campbell is excited to have the rare opportunity to perform in front of people who helped get him to where he is.
“Now that I’ve been promoted, everyone asks how I feel and actually I feel the same, but now I carry this duty,” said Campbell, whose performance at the festival is a testament to the success he has received. “I feel like I have an example to set for the next generation. It’s not a pressure, just a privilege.”
Unlike most principal dancers, whose performance stories started at the age of 3 or 4, Campbell represents a rare and rapid success that only comes with insurmountable drive and determination.
Although he was introduced to ballet at young age by his mother and stepfather (both former professional ballet dancers), it wasn’t until age 14 that Campbell realized he too was destined to perform professionally.
“I honestly thought I would go to university for drums,” said Campbell. “I didn’t pick up on wanting to be a dancer until later because I was so focused on music and skateboarding.”
Campbell said he fully embraced the Southern California beach culture while growing up in Laguna Beach and attending Tesoro High School. Ballet wasn’t even on his radar as a career option, but now he can’t imagine life without it.
“I found my language and my voice through moving in this way. I think the challenge of the form is what hooked me,” said Campbell. “I was shy as kid, and ballet is reserved, internal and a little self-involved because of the constant evaluation.”
Campbell’s upcoming performance with partner Jordana Daumec sets the precedent for other young dancers who hope to follow a similar path. The “Stars of Dance” program includes performances by USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance’s inaugural BFA class and will undoubtedly draw an audience of aspiring young dancers.
“I hope this performance sparks inspiration in even just one person,” said Campbell. “I hope people leave feeling enlightened and moved in their own way. Whether they know what fifth position is or not, as long as they are taken somewhere through our performance then we’ve done our job.”
Coming home to Laguna Beach is a proud moment for Campbell. After years of feeling like he was playing catch-up, he said he feels like he has finally come into his own, ready to explore his own ideas and movement styles.
The Laguna Dance Festival runs October 4-7 at the Laguna Playhouse and surrounding Laguna Beach venues. The annual event, conceived by founder and artistic director Jodie Gates, includes a free backstage peek with Complexions, a one-night-only Bowie tribute, international dance stars in their prime, master classes, two free summer Sunday shows at the Festival of Arts grounds, and bonus show in late October by Afro-Colombian troupe Sankofa Danzafro.
Kaitlin Wright is a contributing writer for Arts & Culture at Voice of OC. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org