Each June, Grade 12 students participate in the graduation ceremony on stage at the Betty Oliphant Theatre. On June 22, the graduating class of 2018 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: Leo Hepler (Christopher Ondaatje Ballet Prize); Holden Cole and Junnosuke Nakamura (Lawrence Haskett Scholarship Award); Charlie Skuy (The Entrepreneurial Spirit Award); Jason Chen (Jeffrey Kirk Award); Genna Penn-Nabity (Erik Bruhn Memorial Award); Sophie Lee (Bernard Ostry Prize); Stephen Allan and Michael Rinderle (2018 Special Ballet Staff Award). Congratulations to all the graduates!
Michael Rinderle, Class of 2018
One of the unique experiences of going to NBS is trying to explain to other people what this school is like. Whether you’re a teacher, staff member, parent, or student, you know what it is like trying to do the classic “NBS explanation.” However, it is in those moments that I am truly taken aback by how incredibly special this place is. And as I stand here in front of all the people who have made this dream come true, I can’t help but think of those moments.
The first step in explaining NBS is just trying to work out what it is. It seems it’s always when I am at the dentist that it comes up. “Oh, where do you go to school?” “Canada’s National Ballet School!” Then through a mouth full of dental equipment I have to explain the intricacies of this school. How there is not just a ballet program but a fully attached academic school, ensuring that shifting dreams and aspirations can be supported by a strong education. Or at the very least it’s a place to sneak tea into while cramming for those finals. And there’s also a residence where, on any given day, we all have 20 aunts and uncles taking care of us.
But there’s also a ballet program! And it’s not just a ballet program, it is world class dance training provided by the greatest ballet school on earth. It is a place where ballet legends such as Mr. Gorbatsevich, Ms. Timashova, Ms. Lamy, or Mr. Smith not only bump into you in the halls as Grade 6s but who will go on to teach you in gorgeous sunlit studios when you reach the senior school. It is a place where you can get the deep insight of Ms. Toto or Ms. Bomers as you struggle to figure out how to get your feet pointing in opposite directions. It is a school where piano music trails down hallways and fills studios lined with photos of some of the most influential figures in dance.
But it is not just a highly technical ballet school. It is a place where you learn from the modern legacy of Peggy Baker. It is a school where you can have the opportunity of creating entire ballets with renowned choreographers like Robert Binet or James Kudelka. It is a school where Mikhail Baryshnikov visits, where AI 17 happens, where you have the chance to go on exchange to every corner of this earth—thanks Ms. Hess. We all have endless connections around the world from these experiences.
On behalf of us all, I must thank every teacher, artistic and academic, for their incredible work. Thank you for leading us to today and preparing us for tomorrow.
And that leads me to the next step of the NBS explanation. Why would someone go to a place like NBS? And that answer seems so simple to anyone on this stage here with me today. But our lives are by no means normal; most 11-year-old boys don’t fly from Taiwan to come to Canada to dance. However, in the words of 12-year-old Olivia, we dared to dream!
We dreamed so hard we traveled from everywhere on this planet to be here today. That’s all thanks to every parent who supported us, and believed in us, and trusted that one day our dreams could become a reality. And here we are!
The final question that comes up in that dentist chair is “Yeah, but what comes after the whole ballet thing?” This is my favorite part of the question, especially as this year unfolded. We go on and dance, we perform, we share art and beauty through our work. We do what we love at the greatest capacity we can. That may not be dance, but our willingness to work no matter what helps us go to universities like Gilford, Parsons, Waterloo, and Wilfred Laurier. But we are also going on to dance! Next year we will dance at the greatest schools and companies this world has to offer, from Germany to France to Holland to Serbia, England, Norway, Canada, the USA, and beyond.
So ‘yeah’, that’s what comes after that whole ballet school thing.
There are two special thank yous I have left. The first is to Ms. Staines, for her unlimited work, drive, and creative aspirations for this incredible school. As stated by Jean-Yves Esquerre at the final assembly of AI 17, “there will be a post-Mavis world of dance.” Through initiatives like AI and our extensive depth of training opportunities, you have inspired not just us but many others beyond the walls of NBS. The legacy of your commitment to connect us around the world is a priceless tool as we navigate the first steps of our careers. Canada’s National Ballet School is a name we will all wear proudly. It is impossible for us to thank you enough.
I have a final thank you. NBS is the greatest family found on this earth, and I must thank my fellow graduates. You have not only been the greatest of friends, you have all inspired me in some way to push myself further in every aspect of my life. The moments I have shared with you will stay forever close to my heart. I love all of you.
So in the end, it is impossible to fully explain this school. The dentist will never truly know what it means to be NBS alumni. However, we all know. We dared to dream.
Dream on class of 2018, we’re going places.