TORONTO—Canada’s National Ballet School, one of the world’s elite ballet training academies, celebrated its 52nd anniversary on Feb. 11 with For the Love of Ballet Gala, its annual fundraiser.
Toronto’s Ritz-Carleton hotel opened its doors to celebrate a valued art form and the children who are keeping it alive, and teachers, artists, and supporters gathered for a night devoted to the beauty of dance.
“We’re in support of the most treasured institution in Canada. It’s unique in the world and it deserves all the support of not only all the Toronto and the Ontario community, but the entire country,” said board member Dona Eull-Schultz.
“This is a way for us to channel all of the talent and energy of our wonderful children in Canada so that they can go on and perform on the stages of the world.”
Canada’s National Ballet School is unique in North America for its comprehensive educational system, which includes elite dance and academic training.
The school, which has an on-campus residence, offers a core Professional Ballet Program from grade 6 to post-secondary, as well as a professional Teacher Training Program, adult recreational classes, professional development classes, and a well-developed outreach program.
Eull-Schultz takes ballet classes every week at the school as part of the adult recreational program.
“I take ballet because there are five minutes where I actually feel graceful and elegant,” she said.
Among the guests was former National Ballet of Canada prima ballerina Veronica Tennant. Now a filmmaker, Tennant has kept close ties to the Ballet School, which she attended as a child.
Other well-known alumni include National Ballet of Canada artistic director Karen Kain, artist-in-residence Rex Harrington, and Mavis Staines, the school’s artistic director and co-CEO.
Tennant expressed her admiration for the art form.
“There’s two sides to the coin. One was when I was dancing and how extraordinarily fulfilling it was, and exciting. I danced with Baryshnikov, I danced with Nureyev. And then the other side of the coin is watching these beautiful young dancers that come out of the school who are so perfectly trained and who are just full of energy and hope and joie de vivre and deep, deep talent,” she said.
Tennant added that she felt very optimistic about the future generation of ballet dancers.
“They just keep coming and constantly there is this ever fresh resource of talent and it just gives you hope about young people and the future of the arts,” she said.
Among the 400 attendees at the gala were ballet students Basha Schwartz and Ami Yuki, both in grade 12. Their wish is to become professional as they apply with ballet companies.
“I just love dancing and people watching me dancing,” said Yuki, adding that she feels great joy in being able to express her feelings through her body.
Schwartz shared similar feelings.
“Ballet for me is the most incredible experience because [you] can express so much without using words,” she said. “I find that it’s such a pure art form that it’s really a novelty to have nowadays when there is so much media. Ballet is so pure that it’s important to cherish it, and I love doing it.”
Pianist Nina Shapilsky entertained the guests. A renowned composer in her home country of Russia, Shapilsky has worked with the National Ballet Company and the National Ballet School for close to 20 years. She said she enjoys working with the children the most, and sharing in their energy and enthusiasm.
“Working with children is special, especially with these children. I personally call them chosen people, golden children. They are absolutely special,” she said.
Shapilsky finds that what makes these children particularly special is both their ability to express their emotions and their incredible self-discipline. It is for this reason that she has left the National Ballet Company to devote herself to the school, working with students from level 1 to PhD.