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Ken McCarter’s report on NBS’ Global Alumni Symposium, May, 2016

I have long thought that the alumni are a great and perhaps underutilized resource for NBS. Many have accomplished amazing things and they all have potential to play a role as terrific ambassadors for the School.
I was privileged as board representative to attend the Symposium. There are four themes that occurred to me, with the one overarching theme being the emotional pull the School exerts on all it touches, from alumni to staff to students.
The board should be proud of the extremely accomplished alumni of the School. I was well aware of the many alumni who have become dancers at the National Ballet of Canada, but I was not aware of the distinguished careers many have had outside performance.
And that is the second themeNBS provides skills that are hugely important for successful careers in today’s workplace outside dance. The School produces people who have what employers are now looking for. One of these qualities is non-linear thinking – a dancer has to be able to go from one disjointed part of a work to another, while keeping the ability to see it as a whole. Another skill is empathy - the ability to put yourself inside someone else’s head, to inform movement in a work. A third is a sense of narrative, and that is crucial for communication skills. And finally, the sense of discipline and the efficient use of time that comes from handling dance and academic demands.
My third theme is the powerful and emotional support for the School both within and outside Canada. This is reflected in the stellar quality and reputations of the people, both alumni and non-alumni, who gave up their time to take part in panels and observations. One example is Sue Hoyle, Director of the Clore Leadership Programme, formerly Deputy Secretary General for Arts Council England. Another is Deborah Bull, Assistant Principal at King’s College of the University of London, who has served on Arts Council England, as a Governor of the BBC and as judge for the 2010 Man Booker Prize. A third is David Leventhal, Brooklyn-based co-founder of the Dance for PD® program which sees NBS providing dance classes to the PD community through its Sharing Dance program.
The fact that these people, who are not alumni, would give their time to speak at NBS’ Alumni Symposium is a testament to the pull the School exerts, to its international reputation and, I have to say, to the personal reputation of NBS’ Artistic Director, Mavis Staines.
On the concept of the emotional pull of the School, the primary way of fostering that with alumni is through connections, and that is my fourth theme. It is clear that older alumni need a way of being able to share experiences with younger alumni who so wish, and that process started at the Symposium itself.
The Symposium ended with a clear call to action to draw on this support to create a process, based on the latest technology, through which alumni can serve as resources for each another, for current students, and for future students; and most importantly can serve as ambassadors for the School. I can only say as a director that attending this event made me prouder than ever of the institution of which we all have the privilege of being a part.