NBS Students Explore the Language of Ballet in Spring Showcase 2019
On May 22-25, NBS Professional Ballet Program (PBP) students from grades 8-12, as well as the post-secondary program, performed in NBS’ renowned annual Spring Showcase. During the completely sold-out run, audiences were delighted by captivating performances of excerpts from August Bournonville’s Napoli and Marius Petipa’s La Bayadère, as well as two new works – Matjash Mrozewski’s Ghost Variations and Jera Wolfe’s Arise.
NBS’ Spring Showcase is a unique and invaluable learning opportunity for students to contribute their own talents to beloved classics, and to learn, collaborate and create alongside talented choreographers.
“Having to adapt to two entirely different pieces was a wonderful challenge that I feel allowed me to explore different sides of my dancing,” shared grade 12 student Naomi, who performed in both Napoli and Ghost Variations. “Versatility is a major attribute in today's dance world. Performing in this year's Spring Showcase gave me a taste of what I might be required to perform in a ballet company's mixed program. Engaging with different sides of my dancing, both technical and artistic, has made me curious to explore other styles that will challenge and inspire me.”
Grade 11 student Emma also discovered something new about herself in the process of rehearsing and performing in Spring Showcase: “I think I did consider myself more of a classical ballet dancer before,” said Emma. “But after my experience performing in Arise I feel like I was able to discover and unleash a really big part of who I am as a person and as a dancer that I honestly didn’t know existed before.”
For students performing more than one role in Spring Showcase, transitioning from one piece to another was a challenging exercise, both physically and artistically. “The goal in Napoli was to appear to 'hang in the air', whereas Mat challenged those of us in Ghost Variations to become comfortable giving our weight to the floor,” explained Naomi. “Going from such an uplifted ballet forced us to really ground ourselves in preparation for the new contemporary work. This was quite a challenge, especially with the pieces being back-to-back.”
Naomi shared that proprioception exercises between Napoli and Ghost Variations were key in helping her make the physical transition between the two differing works. In the build to performances, dancers explored the language of ballet and discovered how it is woven across beloved classics and new works, and in the process learned more about the art form of ballet and themselves as dancers.
“Ballet doesn’t just teach you physical things,” said Emma. “Of course that is a big part of it. But it teaches you so much more about yourself. It teaches you how to be prepared for anything. It teaches you the process of discovery.”
In rehearsals for La Bayadère, grade 12 student Tristan explored how to “bring yourself to the movement and become the movement.” Tristan’s partner Pravda (grade 10) enjoyed portraying the character of Nikia in La Bayadère in front of a large audience. Whether performing with one partner, as she did in La Bayadère, or in Arise’s ensemble of 110 students, Pravda learned that collaboration is a key part of telling a story: “I really learned how each of us as individuals need to work together in order to create a whole big picture. In both La Bayadère and Arise we had to rely on one another. It was a joint effort to convey the piece.”
The mutual support and sense of camaraderie between all students performing in Spring Showcase was demonstrated in a heartwarming moment backstage. During a performance by participants in NBS’ Sharing Dance Seniors program at intermission, which also got the audience dancing, NBS PBP students joined in the fun backstage. “You should have seen behind the wings when ‘Rockin’ Robin’ was playing. It was a dance party every single night!” shared Tristan. Audience members, PBP students and participants from NBS’ community programs danced together and filled the Betty Oliphant Theatre with the pure joy of dance.
“I was inspired watching my peers in each of the four pieces that were performed, and I hope the audience was too,” said Naomi.
Naomi was right – audiences, filled with NBS supporters, alumni, families, and members of the Toronto community, left the inspiring performances with an optimistic spring in their steps.
“What magnificence on stage! I was honoured to connect with audience members, during intermission and afterwards, and to listen to and share in their personal stories of what dance has done for them, as individuals and within their families,” shared one audience member, Ruthie, who is also a participant in NBS’ Sharing Dance Seniors program. “What great joy you bring to all of us! On a rainy Spring day you continued, through dance, to bring sunshine, joy and hope into our lives.”
Spring Showcase 2019 – combining generations of NBS talent to spotlight new works and affirm the relevance of timeless classics – was made possible by the following generous donors. By choosing to direct gifts to Spring Showcase, these donors enrich this exciting performance event for NBS students, guest artists, faculty and audience members alike. To them, we extend our deepest thanks.
Lead Supporter of NBS’ Guest Artists Program
The Koerner Foundation
New Works Sponsor: Jera Wolfe
Gretchen & Donald Ross
New Works Sponsor: Matjash Mrozewski
Sandra Faire* & Ivan Fecan
Maxine Goldberg, Jolie Lin & Ian Crosbie, Frances & Timothy Price,
Kristine & Ivor Thompson
* Fondly Remembered
Photos by Bruce Zinger