We all know that this is a milestone year for Canada. It’s a historic moment that inspires people and places to come together and encourages all Canadians to contribute to their communities. For Vivian Berneol, participating in an official Canada 150 Signature Event was important in marking her first year as an official Canadian citizen and we are thrilled that she has chosen Sharing Dance Canada 2017.
In 1965, Vivian and her family moved from Palm Springs, CA to Milk River, AB, a small town about 300 km outside of Calgary. After taking her citizenship oath in July 2016, she had made up her mind that she wanted to do something special to mark the occasion and celebrate Canada’s 150th
“I remember Canada’s Centennial Year in 1967 and it left a mark on my memory. I have always felt Canadian and understand the significance of celebrating these milestone markers so I wanted to do something to celebrate both my citizenship and Canada’s 150th.”
With so many activities and events to choose from, Vivian came across a notice while browsing the Cultural Access Pass newsletter she had been receiving since her citizenship became official. The newsletter ad was for Sharing Dance Canada 2017, a project led by Canada’s National Ballet School that showcases Canada’s history, cultural richness and diversity through dance, while also bringing together and empowering communities across the country to share their stories of what it means to be Canadian. “I did have some experience dancing as a very young girl and attended dance lessons once a week when the dance teacher would visit our town, but I didn’t dance past the age of 12 because the dance teacher ended up not offering lessons in our town anymore.”
With grace and gumption, Vivian seized the opportunity to celebrate Canada’s 150th
and participate in her community, while getting regular exercise and challenging her mind and body.
Vivian began attending rehearsals at Decidedly Jazz Danceworks, a local dance studio in Calgary, where she met dance instructor, Joanne Baker and began learning this year’s choreography, created by four Canadian choreographers— representing distinct styles of dance, cultural backgrounds and geographic locations in Canada. “My first impression of the choreography was that it wasn’t like anything I had ever seen my daughters doing in their dance years. It was interpretive, modern and collaborative and incorporated different types of movement - I could tell that a lot of thought went into developing it.”
Despite being a Jazzercise instructor many years ago, Vivian admits some challenges she faced in learning the choreography and remembers the hardest part was getting the hang of the quick timing of the movements – a challenge she enjoyed tackling and she now reflects on with a smile.
“I am almost 60 years old and have had many lessons in my life, but this dance made me step a bit further out of my comfort zone. I know I did not look very ‘polished’ with my moves but I really loved performing. I am proud of myself for completing it, dancing my best performance and certainly proud to be an ‘official’ Canadian.”
Vivian currently lives in Calgary with her husband. She has two daughters and a dog named Raja.