This is indeed the stuff of legends. A place where you could dance all day. What little girl or boy who loved to dance didn’t dream of that? I did. For years. Poured over books of ballerinas, drew pictures of them, designed tutus, made ballet legs spin with bobby pins. It never occurred to me that ballet school wasn’t just that. It was so much more.
|Children Dancing, Past and Present|
Our DAREarts team had the honour of visiting the National Ballet School for the day, to work with a wonderful Ballet Mistress, have lunch with some of the Ballet School students, and watch a class.
I walked in to a modern dance class, where the students were putting together a “movement sentence” made up of a movement vocabulary. Curls. Exclamation points. How one punctuates the end of a combination is purely up to the dancer. They got to explore expression through freedom.
Then, they got down to a bit of choreography. When they had a fairly complicated combination put together, they were split up into two groups. One performed for the other. The audience was asked to convey their impression of the performers. “They were all together.” “They were smiling.”
Then, the groups switched. It was a wonderful thing to watch. “They had a lot of fun.”
The students broke for lunch, and had an opportunity to talk and eat with some of the resident students. Little girls of eleven years of age from different parts of Canada. That’s when the DARE students found out that these kids don’t finish their school day until seven pm!
That afternoon, they had the opportunity to audition a class in progress. I watched the students as they watched the ballet students at the barre. Now, watching other students performing a half hour of pliés, tendus and port de bras could have the sedative effect of witnessing paint drying. Slowly. On a muggy day. But this was fascinating.
The teachers were constantly calling attention to the smallest of details. Adjusting the instep of a foot. Tilting a head a millimeter to the right. The stop and go. The beautiful music. And the concentration these girls had, with a couple dozen strangers watching them intently, was admirable.
It was interesting watching the display of discipline by both the ballet students and the DAREarts students. The dancers worked hard, doing the same movements over and over again to achieve perfection. The watchers concentrated with them, their eyes focused on what the teacher was saying, and listened with the greatest respect. When asked if they had any impressions or questions after leaving the room, one of them said, “The teacher is really hard on them. But it must be good for them. They are really good.”
At one point, the teacher said to one of the girls, “When you light up with your face like that, you look like a Company Member.” That was one of the most amazing thing that could be said to a child. The DAREarts students, with their hearts in their faces, witnessed that child’s face light up even more. They got to do what I get to do as a witness to their growth and artistic blossoming. They saw that light go on, and if you’re reading this, DAREarts students, know that your teachers are seeing the same light in your faces!
So much gratitude, teachers and staff of the National Ballet School of Canada! Thank you for welcoming us into your home. For letting us walk in your halls. It’s a little like being in Hogwarts, learning magic. Legendary. Inspiring.