Canada’s National Ballet School has been providing elite dance training to students from around the world for more than 50 years, and this summer, Ladysmith’s Meghan Henry will get a chance to learn from some of this country’s top teachers at the school.
Henry, who recently turned 13, will be taking part in a three-week Canada’s National Ballet School Summer Intensive in Toronto this July.
Henry says this is the second step of the audition process for the National Ballet School’s full-year program. The first step was a workshop and audition in Victoria this past October.
“It was really good because we got to have a feel for what the summer school is going to be like,” said Henry. “A teacher from National Ballet who is going to be teaching at summer school came, and we got to meet her.”
Henry leaves for Toronto June 30, and the program runs from July 2-22. She says she will be dancing five days a week and will spend the weekends doing excursions, such as visiting Niagara Falls.
“I’m really excited because it’s really close,” she said. “I’m excited about the classes we’re going to take and what we’re going to do on the weekends. I’m going with one of my friends, so we’re always talking about it.”
Henry says the classes will be mainly ballet, including a repertoire and pointe classes, as well as modern and jazz. She doesn’t think there will be a final show, but parents are invited to come watch their children in the final week so they can see what they’ve been working on and how they’ve improved.
Henry says she is a bit nervous because she’s never been away from home for three weeks before, but she’s more excited than anything.
“I’m looking forward to meeting the new teachers and hearing what they have to say and their critiques and also the different styes I might take there that are different from my home studio,” she said. “Overall, I’m really excited to go because not many people get this opportunity.”
Henry says that if she does well at the Summer Intensive, she could be accepted into the National Ballet’s full-time program, which means she would move out to Toronto and stay there for a whole year. She isn’t sure yet if that is a goal of hers or not.
Henry, who is in Grade 7 at École Davis Road Elementary, dances five days a week with the Kirkwood Academy of Performing Arts in Nanaimo.
“I like the structure and how it’s a way to express myself non-verbally,” she says about ballet.
Besides ballet, Henry also dances modern, jazz, tap and musical theatre.
Henry has been doing ballet for 10 years. She says she hopes ballet will give her new opportunities and also the chance to meet new people she wouldn’t meet otherwise.
She feels ballet has helped her grow a lot as a person.
“I think I’ve learned a lot about myself through ballet, and I’ve learned a lot about the dance world and about new people, and I’ve got to meet new people,” she said. “I think I’ve learned to be more open through dance. I think that I’m typically a more shy person, and I think dance has really opened me up. I think I’ve learned to trust myself more.”
Henry feels it takes many long, hard hours and a lot of practice to become a successful dancer.
“It takes passion because you can find pretty feet anywhere in the world, but you can’t always find someone who has passion also,” she added.
Kirkwood Academy owner Carolé Martyn taught Henry at the Frank Jameson Community Centre through Ladysmith Parks, Recreation and Culture when she was “just a tot” and has seen her progress through the years at Kirkwood.
“Meghan always practises her dance by herself, and this extra work and dedication has led to her doing really well on stage and in exams,” she said. “She has a dancer’s body, and with that, she works hard, is willing to learn and is passionate about dance. Being accepted to the National Ballet School for the summer is a special honour, and I know Meghan will make the very most of the opportunity.”
Henry’s current teacher, Chantelle Norris, is also very proud of her.
“Meghan is a true joy to teach and a dedicated, quiet-mannered young lady bound for the stage,” she said. “Born with the rare gift of an all-around physique for classical ballet, Meghan possesses the ability to look like a swan with little exertion. Her legs just go, her body just turns — she looks effortless at times. Meghan’s progress within the studio walls of Kirkwood Academy has been praiseworthy, and we are all very excited for her and this momentous opportunity she has been given.”