Dancing Opens Doors: An Interview with Olympian Rachael Karker

Dancing Opens Doors: An Interview with Olympian Rachael Karker

When we dance, we engage our brain, body and spirit in an activity unlike any other. And as Canadian freestyle skier and Olympic bronze medal winner Rachael Karker knows, the lessons we learn from dance can open doors to countless opportunities in the studio, on stage and beyond.

Pursuing an Olympic dream 

Reflecting on the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games, Rachael feels that each stage of her life in sport helped prepare her for that moment on the world stage. 

From learning to ski when she was just one-and-a-half years old, to her early years in dance at Canada’s National Ballet School (NBS), to competing in gymnastics, to discovering a new path in freestyle skiing—each step helped Rachael build skills and opened doors to new possibilities. In fact, she can point to many ways that participating in an activity like dance set her up for success on and off the slopes.

A journey through dance 

Between ages 7 and 11, Rachael merged her love of physical activity and theatrical performance by participating in the part-time Associates Program at NBS. Now called the Young Dancers Program, the recreational program offers a supportive environment for young dancers ages 5-17 to create lasting foundations for physical and artistic engagement, as well as social and emotional development. 

Rachael says the opportunity to train in and perform dance helped her develop important skills that she uses today—including post-Olympic Games. 

“I would say the most transferable skill would be the performance aspect, and getting over that initial fear of being in front of people,” she says. “How it feels being on the world stage, with people watching you... I think doing those performances really helped me learn how to deal with that kind of pressure.”

She also credits being engaged in creative movement with helping her identify what she enjoyed about other forms of physical activity, like gymnastics and freestyle skiing, both of which she has competed in at a high level. 

“Dance was a huge part of my sporting career. I think what I like most about dance is, I’ve always loved being graceful and being in control. I love that feeling of weightlessness, like jumping, and how fluid, how expressive it can be. It’s pretty much choreography, the way that we ski. So dance definitely influenced what exactly I liked about specific sports.” 

Building community and creating connections

In addition to opening doors on her personal journey as an athlete, Rachael notes that dance created opportunities by helping her build friendships and a community. 

“You do broaden your community quite a bit. There are always new teachers, new instructors and new friends that you would make in dance classes,” she says.

“I think dance was just a great base for me to gain confidence and learn how to deal with people, how to talk to people as a kid and using those kinds of skills moving forward. I made a lot of friends and I had a great time.” 

For all these reasons, Rachael is eager to recommend dance to people of any age—but especially to children and youth. “I would definitely recommend dance. I think it’s such a fun sport to start out in and to continue in as well. Dance is so much fun, and you learn so many skills. I think it’s a great way to get exercising or to just try something new, and I think it’s a great basis for a lot of other sports. Even if you’re not going to be a dancer, it doesn’t mean that dance is not going to be helpful for you. I think it’s a great option for kids.”

Watch the video below to hear Rachael speak about her time at NBS and how dance helped her build confidence, develop important athletic skills, make friendships and fully explore the joy of movement. 



January 23, 2023

An Interview with "Dancer Not Dementia" filmmaker Anthony Grani

December 19, 2022

Dancing Opens Doors: A Year in Review at NBS 2021-2022

December 07, 2022

Student Exchange Experience with Washington, D.C. Dancers

November 30, 2022

A Holiday Gift Guide from Canada’s National Ballet School