By Abena Tuffour Green/Quinte Arts Council
In celebration of International Dance Day (April 29) we’re sharing this article from the Spring 2021 issue of Umbrella magazine, available now.
Established in 1972, the Quinte Ballet School of Canada (QBSC) (formerly known as the Quinte Dance school and renamed in 1992) has had a storied history of faculty members, artistic advisors and, of course, graduates. These are just two of those stories.
Sonja Boretski, a Belleville local now based in Toronto, graduated from QBSC professional training program in 2013. She says her training expanded her: “In my first year a new artistic director, John Ottman, was coming in. He brought a whole new way of viewing dance using improvisation and experimentation with movement. I thought in a linear way of dance in terms of structure and this expanded my lens,” she says. “I learned that we can utilize techniques but ultimately it’s the individual that brings this movement to life.”
Borestski recently performed with Toronto Dance Theatre and featured in a solo performance of Peggy Baker’s Krishna’s Mouth at the Fleck Theatre in Toronto in January 2019. “I had to speak as well as dance on the stage by myself for 17 minutes. It was very frightening at first and very strange to hear my own voice while I was dancing,” she says. “That was a really big shift for me and it has been so rewarding.” In 2020, she was nominated for a Dora Mavor Moore Award as part of the dance ensemble in Toronto Dance Theatre’s Vena Cava. Despite the disappointment of several cancelled opportunities due to the pandemic, Boretski is exploring new art forms. She will also be returning to work with the Toronto Dance Theatre.
Peter-Nicholas Taylor grew up in Colborne, and graduated from QBSC in 2016. Like Boretski, he also joined QBSC relatively “late,” around grade 10 or 11 but thrived once there. “My sister was doing ballet and I asked if I could do it. It’s been 18 years.” Taylor says that attending QBSC secured his love of the art form. “Being trained there made it a reality; that I could do this, this could be my job. This can be my everyday,” he says.
Taylor was an apprentice of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and part of the Canadian premier of the Wizard of Oz. “It was the highest production value of anything I’ve ever been in,” he says. “There were impeccable costumes, dancers in harness flying across the stage. It was absolutely magical.” Taylor currently dances with Ballet Victoria in Victoria, B.C.
Artistic Director Catherine Taylor wants students to leave QBSC “with a better understanding of themselves, knowing that they have done their absolute best. They may continue in dance or move onto something else.” She reminds us that learning to dance is a valuable and transferable skill. “Parents need to understand [dance] isn’t just frivolous twirling. Dancers are learning how to control their bodies; how to take instruction and act. They are learning discipline and respect for self and others. Those skills can be taken beyond the studio.”
As for the value of dance to a community? “Immeasurable. You are raising people with an indomitable spirit. How can society lose?”