Lili's Story

Toronto public school teacher Lili Steer notices how Sharing Dance benefits everyone in the classroom.

Dancers taking part in a public NBS Sharing Dance Day event in Toronto

“I’m not a dance teacher. I’ve never taught dance before. [But] I have to teach dance.”

Those were the words of Lili Steer, a Grade 8 teacher at an urban public school in Toronto, Ontario, describing how she felt when she learned she was required to introduce dance into her classroom curriculum.

It’s a feeling of anxiousness that many generalist public school teachers feel: how can I possibly introduce this complex art form into my classroom, and do it well, when I don’t have any dance experience?

For Steer, the answer lay in NBS Sharing Dance, which provides step-by-step instructional videos for its annual Sharing Dance Day choreography. As one of the earliest teachers to participate in Sharing Dance, Steer recognized that the videos provided an opportunity to link her curriculum needs to the dance steps, while utilizing expert instruction that didn’t overwhelm her. Steer’s use of the videos spurred NBS to develop formal curriculum resources that help teachers deliver dance activities – complete with free music and evaluation resources – in their classrooms with ease.

Important for Steer was seeing how different students excelled with Sharing Dance. The dance provided a leadership opportunity for kinesthetic learners who seldom had the opportunity to shine in the classroom. She says, “I was surprised who in my groups would respond in this way. You never really know until you go down this route who really has this [leadership ability] as a strength.”

“If you have a group of students you’re going to have a few who will see the video and learn it so quickly [that] they become the teacher. Then you become the facilitator. You’re bringing the internet to the classroom; you’re providing the space, the time, the structure, and the behaviour management – which we [teachers] have to do all the time anyway.”

Steer is now one of many teachers in diverse schools and communities across Canada making use of the NBS Sharing Dance resources.

North Preston

Young women from North Preston, Nova Scotia, grew their leadership skills through Sharing Dance: Take the Lead.

Young female dancers from North Preston, Nova Scotia, take part in a Sharing Dance: take the lead workshop at Canada’s National Ballet School

NBS’ relationship with North Preston began in fall 2016. The partnership was originally focused on engaging the community in Sharing Dance Canada 2017, but as the partnership developed so did the relationship and new opportunities for deeper engagement between NBS and North Preston became apparent.

Working closely with LaMeia Reddick, a community consultant, NBS developed the Sharing Dance: Take the Lead project. NBS worked with a group of young women from North Preston to build confidence and leadership skills through dance, empowering them to lead Sharing Dance initiatives in their community. The goal was to empower these young women to take leadership roles in their community and to make a positive impact through engagement in the arts. Through a series of mentorship workshops and a youth leadership retreat hosted at NBS, the young women built their capacity to act as mentors in the North Preston community for the next generation of young leaders.

LaMeia says, “North Preston doesn’t often see continued commitment from organizations, let alone commitment that deepens over time, but that’s what we have in our partnership with NBS Sharing Dance.”

GeNie's Story

Developing the annual NBS Sharing Dance Day choreography gives artists a national platform for their work, and an opportunity to engage a broader, community audience.

Eugene Baffoe leads a group of dancers at the public dance event, NBS Sharing Dance Day, in Halifax

Every year, NBS Sharing Dance commissions Canadian choreographers to create a unique dance for the whole country to learn. Through in-person rehearsals, online videos and learning resources, over 60,000 people each year are engaged, giving the artists a platform to attract new and diverse audiences. It’s an opportunity that increases awareness of artists and their work, while spreading participation in – and appreciation for – dance on a truly large scale.

Take Eugene Baffoe for example. Known as GeNie in the hip hop community, he was one of four choreographers commissioned to create the NBS Sharing Dance Day choreography in 2017 to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary of confederation. For him, the experience of collaboratively creating choreography for thousands of Canadians was a valuable opportunity.

“Sharing Dance gave me a unique opportunity to work with different choreographers and explore movement outside of my genre. As a hip hop artist, it was incredible to see how my style could be applied to various sounds, music, and ideas – not to mention interpretations. It gave me a chance to grow outside and expand my comfort zone.”

One of Eugene’s most formative experiences with Sharing Dance came outside the studio, when he travelled with NBS to North Preston, Nova Scotia, to workshop the 2017 choreography and celebrate Sharing Dance Day 2017.

“The most meaningful experience I gained was the chance to travel and connect with the community in North Preston. A predominantly black community that has been there for over 400 years, it was surreal to be able to connect with them on a spiritual level as a person of colour myself. I will never forget the kids, the teenagers and the community leaders who are so passionate about their community and work tirelessly every day to put it on the map and in a positive light. It was an honour to be a part of that in some way.”

Eugene’s work with Sharing Dance didn’t end in 2017. He returned in 2018 to create the new Sharing Dance choreography alongside choreographer Michelle Olson, a member of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation. Over the course of his ongoing relationship with NBS and Sharing Dance, he’s observed profound benefits both for the artists who find ways to share their work and expertise offstage, and for the communities with whom they engage.

“Art is a universal language, and it is important for everybody to experience it and understand it. If art stays on the stage behind closed doors, behind box offices and only made accessible through ticket sales, its potential to reach the masses is severely hindered. Art is at its most powerful when it is able to reach the less fortunate. Sharing Dance provides dance artists with an opportunity to connect with the people, and for that I am forever grateful.”