Dancers earn spots at national schools

Nicholas Mercer
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It isn’t every day a dancer from this province gets accepted to a prestigious ballet program on the mainland, let alone two.

Fourteen-year-old Brittany Vaters (left) of Port de Grave performs an arabesque under the watchful eye of her instructor, Catherine Simmons. Brittany has been selected to attend the Quinte Ballet School of Canada in Belleville, Ont., in January.

But that is exactly what happened last week as two young dancers from Conception Bay North were accepted to national programs in Ontario.

Fourteen-year-old Brittany Vaters and 10-year-old Julie Clarke were excited to receive the news that they would join some of the top young dancers in Canada at the Quinte Ballet School of Canada in Belleville and Canada’s National Ballet School in Toronto, respectively.

With their selections, it is believed the pair of talented young dancers are the first two from this province to be selected to national programs in several years.

There have been Newfoundland dancers audition for spots, but none have been successful thus far, said instructor Catherine Simmons.

“To my knowledge, it is very rare,” said Simmons, who is the owner/operator of Catherine’s Dance Studio in Bay Roberts and has been guiding Brittany and Julie since they began dancing at the age of three.

“I have knowledge in recent years of one other from St. John’s going,” she said.

Simmons takes great pride in seeing two of her star pupils being recognized for their talent.

“To see that two of my students within the last four weeks have been accepted to these prestigious schools, I guess, it lets me know we’re doing something right,” she said. “Something is going well here.”

Simmons recognized the girls for their exceptional drive in becoming successful dancers.

“It truly is because of the hard work, the passion and the dedication,” she said.

‘Everything you’ve got’

Simmons had advice for Brittany prior to her trip to Bellevue for her audition over the Remembrance Day weekend.

“You’ve got to go for it, and give them everything you’ve got,” said Simmons.

With that advice in hand, Brittany and her parents travelled to Bellevue for her audition.

Quinte is a challenging institution to get into. The school accepts only 15 dancers into each age group.

“I was kind of nervous and excited, because I didn’t know what they were like,” Brittany said of her mindset prior to auditioning.

However, when she saw the level of dancers in her class, she quickly settled in.

It was not a long turnaround before knowing her results.

Brittany was in class at Amalgamated Academy on Nov. 15 when she received the call from her mom telling her of her selection.

“I almost cried,” she said.

Brittany will begin her classes at Quinte in January.

She is the daughter of Rhonda Porter and Bernard Vaters.

Prime years

Julie, of Bay Roberts, is in her prime years.

“(Julie) is what they’re looking for,” said the instructor.

Julie’s audition took place in late October in St. John’s. The National Ballet School takes only as many as 50 new students each year from across Canada and holds an audition tour at major cities in the country.

“It is the most prestigious school in the country,” said Simmons.

Julie and her family are vacationing in Florida, but they wrote an email to The Compass. She is the daughter of Terry and Nancy Clarke.

“Because it is so hard to get accepted into this prestigious school, the idea was for this audition to be a stepping stone, a learning experience with the hopes of being accepted, perhaps, at future auditions,” wrote Terry.

Dedicated to dancing

Simmons praised her young pupil’s dedication as one of the reasons she was successful at her audition.

Julie is at the studio four times a week for classes in ballet, modern, jazz and contemporary.

In June, she will travel to Ontario for the six-week summer school program. From there, she could be selected to attend full-time in September.

Both Julie and Brittany will have to move away for the next stage of their dancing careers. Brittany will billet with a family in Belleville, while Julie will stay at a dancers’ residence. Neither have many qualms about doing so, as long as they get to pursue their ambition.

“I don’t mind going away, as long as I get to dance,” said Julie. “This is my dream come true.”

The Compass

Organizations: National Ballet School, Quinte Ballet School of Canada, The Compass Amalgamated Academy

Geographic location: Canada, Belleville, Bay Roberts Toronto Bellevue Newfoundland Florida Ontario

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