Each June, Grade 12 students participate in the graduation ceremony on stage at the Betty Oliphant Theatre. On June 22, the graduating class of 2017 received their diplomas from Artistic Director Mavis Staines and Academic Principal Neil Walsh. In addition to the Academic Awards presented, the following Ballet Awards were given to: Siphe November (Jeffrey Kirk Award); Ryan Tomash (Erik Bruhn Memorial Award); Diana Zolty (Bernard Ostry Award); and Hannah Galway (Christopher Ondaatje Ballet Prize). Congratulations to all the graduates!
By: Hannah Galway
"Good afternoon. If only I could express through the universal language of dance how honoured and grateful the 15 of us feel to be sitting on this stage as NBS’s 2017 graduates. Through the vocabulary of dance that we’ve learned and practiced every day in our ballet classes, I could tell you just how wonderful this experience has been. In a two-minute solo, or in a full-length ballet, I could make you understand exactly how we feel about our time here.
Life is closely mirrored through our ballet class: we begin with a warm up; much like how you warm up to somebody when you get to know them, how we have had the pleasure to do with one another. We move on through the barre, getting warmer and stronger, much like the bond of this class. By the time we get to centre, somewhere around grade nine, our bodies begin to settle into place and we are comfortable in our movements; everything is beginning to make sense. When new exercises are added in the middle of centre, much like the addition of new students, we embrace them for what they are. We accept them for not only their pleasures but for their challenges too, just like every exercise before them. With these new additions, we grow stronger and more knowledgeable. It is because of these new exercises and new friends that we are able to continue on with the evolution of both our ballet class and ourselves as individuals.
After finding our base at the barre, and honing in on the growth of the vocabulary in the centre, it is finally time to experiment with our language when we start petit allegro. We begin by taking small bounces as we go off to other countries on summer exchanges, using our language to speak to others from around the world, testing it out to see if it really works, and whether or not it stands up to the standards of the vocabularies of other schools. But this is only for a short period of time, because we must come back down to the floor eventually; our ballet class has yet to finish.
Finally, and all so suddenly, we reach what we’ve been working for all class – grand allegro. It’s odd to think that at the beginning of class, this part seemed so far away… so distant. We couldn’t wait to make these massive leaps, but now that we are here we can’t help but reminisce on the hard work and discoveries we’ve made. Just as we cannot help but appreciate the barre and the centre that much more. It seems daunting at first, but we know that the work we’ve done up until this point has prepared us for this exact moment; to leap and bound, and to take risks jumping higher and higher. Much like how many of us have leapt across oceans, countries, and continents to find ourselves accepted into other ballet classes, where there will be new warm ups, new exercises, new pleasures and new challenges. We should not be scared of taking these massive leaps, because when we land we remember the language has not changed and that is why we practice every day, to guide us in moments like these. If you ever feel you’ve jumped too far away, or too high and feel that you’ve flown out of sight, we all have the floor to ground us, a common meeting place: NBS.
These daily ballet classes – and this class itself – would not have been possible without Ms. Staines. She is the ultimate linguist of our beloved language, and the woman who provided us with the opportunity to learn about our passion and about ourselves. I am at a loss. I cannot describe all the wonderful things that you do. A person like you, and all that you offer is equivalent to watching the most beautiful dancing; it is generous, honest, and makes the individuals watching incredibly grateful to have been in its presence. Thank you for being you.
I would also like to say a heartfelt thank you to our ballet teachers and artistic staff for sharing this language with us. For inspiring us to expand our vocabulary, to work on refining our grammar and pronunciation, so that we can be as articulate as possible in the language of dance. Each of you has left your mark on us and it is because of your generosity of knowledge and understanding that we are able to express ourselves in such a magnificent way. We are all so grateful.
Furthermore I would like to thank all academic teachers, under the expert guidance of Mr. Walsh and Ms. Meadley, for teaching us other common dialects of the world: math, science, and humanities. Thank you for giving us the time needed in order to refine our leading language and for making us well rounded graduating students. On behalf of the previous 29 graduating classes, I would like to acknowledge Ms.Meadley as she leaves our school to enjoy a well-earned retirement.
Thank you to the residence staff members for making residence feel like a home away from home, and showing us that there are interests outside of a studio, and that there are conversations to be had outside of ballet. We have appreciated all of your hard work, friendly smiles, and when needed, a shoulder to cry on. Susan’s comforting presence will be felt long after she has retired.
A warm thank you to all maintenance staff for providing us with a clean and calm space to not only practice our lingo, but with a place that embraces everything that goes along with it. Food to fuel ourselves with, clean clothes to dance in, and a warm bed to come home to at the end of a tiring day.
Finally, thank you to our families and their unwavering support. Thank you for celebrating us on our good days when our every sentence made sense, and for understanding us on our bad days, when it seems that no one else could. We cherish you and all the sacrifices you’ve had to make in order for us to grasp onto this art form we want to understand so badly – you couldn’t have given us any greater gift. We love you so much.
If I have any advice to share at my naïve age of 17, it’s that if you ever feel like you are at a loss of words, language barriers surrounding you, I encourage you to use your universal language to connect. I know from experience that dance can make you feel a lot less lonely, and that it can spark up a conversation no matter where you go. It is my language, it is our language and with it I say “Thank you” as I join my class of 2017 in our final bow as NBS students."