Dancing Alone: A 12-year-old ballerina who left home to chase her dreams

How old were you when you decided to move away from home? Leila Hopkins has always known she wanted to be a ballerina. But she's also known that she'd have to leave home to train with the best in the world.
Leila Hopkins is a 12-year-old ballerina in the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School. She moved away from her family in Ontario to chase her dreams ... alone. 1:35
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How old were you when you decided to move away from home? 

Twelve-year-old Leila Hopkins has always known she wanted to be a ballerina. But she's also known that she'd have to leave home to train with the best in the world.  

So she travelled over a thousand kilometres from her home in Ontario to go to a new school in a new province. But it wasn't just any school — it was the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School

"I heard about the Royal Winnipeg Ballet a while ago," she said. "All their dancers are so amazing. I just felt like it would be a dream to actually be in the school." 

Leila Hopkins spends the bulk of her afternoon in the ballet studio. (A. Bero/CBC)

But when you're an aspiring young ballerina, going it alone has some unique challenges.  

"My first night I was really homesick," she explained. "It was all new and different."

The first part of her day, Hopkins is at school like a normal kid. Then the bulk of her afternoon is spent in the dance studio.

It helps that Hopkins has a roommate.  

"It's really nice at times to have someone that you can always trust and talk to," she said.

Hopkins talks to her family every day and she brought a special stuffed animal from home to ease those moments of loneliness. Her room is filled with family photos and her dorm room door is covered in motivational quotes.

Leila Hopkins has covered her dorm room door with motivational quotes to inspire her. (Evan Bergen)

To see Leila in action, click play on the video above.