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Class act / An outstanding young Western New Yorker

Naila Ansari's grandmother had a heart attack on a dance floor.

"I was upset by her loss, but I felt a comfort inside because I knew she died with freedom of movement," said the 17-year-old Buffalo Seminary senior.

"My grandmother always taught me to be free and dance like no one is watching. Her devotion and respect for dance allowed me to understand my own passion and devotion."

Naila, of Buffalo, has been dancing since she was 2 years old and competing since she was 13. She's currently working with Darrin Henson of Darrin's Dance Grooves, traveling and performing with the troupe. Besides performing locally in ballets like "Swan Lake" -- her favorite -- she's had training in Alvin Ailey's summer program in New York City.

"From a young age, I've always been into movement and the way the body works," said Naila, who has also taught dance. "I was never quite sure how to do that by myself. I slowly began to learn with the help of great instructors and dance opportunities."

Over the years, she has studied at various local dance schools and has worked with area choreographers. Naila also has competed nationally in the American Dance Awards, Showstoppers and the New York City Dance Alliance.

At Buffalo Seminary, she heads the Dance Club and is involved in such activities as Glee Club and the Cultural Awareness Club. She also has held various positions with the School Government Association.

She hopes to dance in college, then plans on dancing professionally on Broadway or in a dance company."

After that, "I want to come back to Buffalo and build a stronger dance foundation for young students."

Her dream includes "opening a dance school that gives opportunities to young girls and boys to reach out into the dance world and understand the art form," she said. "I'd also like to open up a physical therapy center for dancers and athletes."

To do that she knows she will have to get a graduate degree in physical therapy. But for now, she has been accepted at the Conservatory of Arts at Point Park University in Pittsburgh on a scholarship.

Know a young outstanding Western New Yorker? Tell us about your nomination, including date of birth and address, for possible publication in Class act. Sorry, photos cannot be returned. E-mail, or write to: Louise Continelli, The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, N.Y. 14240.

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