This summer, sisters Meghan and Kayla Henry of Ladysmith will dance with some of the top ballet teachers in Canada.
Meghan and Kayla are training with Canada’s National Ballet School (NBS)’s Professional Ballet Program summer school in Toronto. They left Ladysmith June 29 and started dancing at Canada’s National Ballet School on June 30.
Meghan, who is 14, was accepted into the summer program last summer as well, and she says she really enjoyed meeting new people and adjusting to new classes and new teachers.
“It was really good to have new people point out things you didn’t know, and the training was really good,” she said. “The summer program really helped me improve a lot in my dancing and gain confidence and really showed me what I am capable of. It showed me if I work hard, I can reach my potential.”
Meghan, who has been dancing since she was three, says she is looking forward to the teachers helping her improve in some way, gaining more life experience, and becoming a better dancer this summer.
“This summer will be a lot more fun because I’ll know more how to handle the stress and be more prepared,” she added.
Kayla, who is 10, says she was inspired by seeing Meghan go through the summer program and seeing how much she improved. She watched Meghan at the school last year and found the studios were big and beautiful.
Kayla says she is looking forward to meeting the teachers in Toronto and seeing how different they are, and she is excited to see how they train over there.
Kayla started dancing when she was three.
“I just like how you can be free, but at the same time, you have to do things right,” she said. “You can just listen and just move.”
During the four-week summer school, students take part in three to four dance classes daily, six days per week. There are also outings and activities around Toronto, such as visiting Niagara Falls, going to Blue Jays games and taking trolley rides.
The summer school is part of Canada’s National Ballet School’s Professional Ballet Program, which provides full-time ballet and academic training to students from Grade 6 to 12, as well as a Post-Secondary Program. Canada’s National Ballet School is the only ballet school in North America to offer ballet training, academics and residence facilities all in one campus.
Dancers who take part in the summer program have a chance to be asked to stay on for the full-year program, although at 10, Kayla is too young to be accepted into the full-year program.
Meghan found that although the dancers are competing for spots at the school, they are still able to make friends, and she enjoyed that aspect.
“Everyone was so nice,” she said. “Even though there was that layer of pressure, when we left the studio, we were friends.”
Meghan just finished Grade 8 at Ladysmith Secondary School, and her mother, Nancy Henry, says she had a great time, was involved in athletics and has a great group of friends, so if she doesn’t get accepted into the full-year program, she’ll be coming back to a great situation.
“I tell them there’s no pressure from us,” said Nancy. “You go and learn. It’s a unique opportunity for them. You’re always going to gain experience and some value in doing all these other things you participate in.”
Both Kayla and Meghan had to audition for the NBS summer program.
The NBS accepts about 150 summer students, and while auditions take place in Canada, students also apply by video from all over the world.
“I think it’s a great experience for them both to be there together,” said Nancy. “I think they will both grow as individual dancers but also be there for each other. I’m totally confident they’re going to have the best time of their life. They’re going to work hard, but they’re also going to make it fun for them too with activities in the evenings and on weekends.”
Nancy says that since Meghan took part in the NBS summer program last year, she’s noticed she has gained confidence and a strength in her abilities.
“I definitely think I’m not as shy as I was,” agreed Meghan. “That might just be growing up, but having to meet new people and make new friends and stay with different people, now, I’m not as shy.”
Meghan and Kayla both dance out of the Kirkwood Academy of Performing Arts in Nanaimo.
Nancy feels the dance teachers at Kirkwood have done a good job of preparing Meghan and Kayla to go to Toronto.
“The teachers at the National Ballet School are topnotch, the best of Canada, and the teachers at Kirkwood do a fantastic job with the girls who participate in the studio,” she said.