Two students pursuing ballet at the highest level

A husband and wife changing their lives through dance

An alumna rediscovering her passion for choreography

United in one incredible performance at NBS' 2017
Stephen Godfrey Choreographic Workshop

Fran & Murray Ellis (Dancers)

"I feel alive. I feel happy. Dance has given me a whole new approach and a desire to keep fighting."

"Fran, are you a dancer?" If you asked me that question three years ago, the answer would have been a flat, "No."

I was so angry when I was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. I had done everything right my whole life, yet here I was. At the urging of my husband, Murray, I reluctantly attended NBS' weekly Sharing Dance for People with Parkinson's classes - part of the School's Sharing Dance community initiatives. I was worried that going to the classes would mean I was a patient and a victim. And I was definitely not a dancer.

But almost immediately, I saw that the people in the classes weren't victims; they were people - people who live full, enthusiastic lives. Dance opened the door for me to see the possibilities in my life. It helped me feel better physically and emotionally.

Murray benefits from the classes too. He joined after he saw how much dance helped me accept my diagnosis and feel alive again. The classes help him feel supportive in his role as my husband and friend. He sees dance as a universal language that brings all of us together. I can't picture our life without it.

When Rachel Bar asked Murray and me to perform her piece at the Stephen Godfrey Choreographic Workshop, I was thrilled. To share the stage with two incredibly talented young dancers means so much to me. It gives me confidence - it says you CAN dance, you CAN move, you CAN be a valued part of society.

When we take the stage this July, I hope the audience sees that people of all ages and abilities can work together to create beautiful art. I hope they see that I don't let Parkinson's disease define who I am or what I'm capable of.

So go ahead, ask me: "Fran, are you a dancer?"

Absolutely. Are you?

Ryan and Pravda (Dancers)

"I'm learning that there is so much more to dance than perfect technique."

Ryan: I have dedicated my life to dance. I first came to NBS' Professional Ballet/Academic Program in grade six and now, six years later, I'm about to graduate. My instructors have always taught me that artists have an important role to play in society, but dancing with Fran and Murray drives that idea home for me.

The first time I met Fran and Murray, they watched me take class in the same studio that they dance in every week. They were so engaged and supportive. It inspired me to know that all of us dance in the same place, and despite the differences in our ages and reasons for dancing, we understand and respect each other.

Murray said that I have a lot to teach him about dance, but I think it's the other way around. I've already learned that the way dance makes us use our brains and bodies can help people with movement disorders. I learned that dancing together can help reduce feelings of isolation as we age.

More than anything, I learned that I have an important role to play as a dancer that goes far beyond perfecting my technique.

I feel a greater sense of responsibility to make sure that as many people as possible can experience the benefits dance offers. I want more people to see themselves in the art that I create. And I want everyone to know that they are capable of creating beautiful movement.

Maybe I've taught Fran and Murray something about their port de bras, but they have given me a new reason to dance.

Rachel Bar (Choreographer)

"No matter who they are or why they dance, everyone can bring beauty to movement"

I have lived the benefits of dance my whole life. Starting as a student in NBS' Professional Ballet/Academic Program, I loved experimenting and exploring new ideas in the Stephen Godfrey Choreographic Workshop. I carried that passion with me throughout my dance career.

Today, I'm the School's Manager of Health Initiatives and Research, and I'm completing my PhD in Clinical Psychology at Ryerson University. In 2013, I helped NBS start the weekly Sharing Dance for People with Parkinson's classes. I understood the wide-ranging health benefits that the classes offered people like Fran, but I was amazed by how much beauty I encountered each week. I realized that true artistry is not limited to elite dancers - it's in everyone.

I knew I wanted to choreograph a piece exploring this idea, working with dancers of different ages and different stories. The choreography will highlight the unique quality that each dancer brings to the art form, while emphasizing the elements they share. It will be set to live violin and cello, which will inject an energy into the piece that mirrors the way the dancers feel when they perform.

I hope the audience leaves seeing more beauty in themselves and the world. I hope they realize how dance connects us all.

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