"There are so many ways to discuss this subject," says West Vancouver's Judith Marcuse, founder of the International Centre of Art for Social Change, and of Judith Marcuse Projects. "There is such diversity in our population. We have opportunity for connection through the arts. It brings us together." And it's not all about high art. "The word", she says, "encompasses everything from community festivals and pottery classes at the rec centre to opera and theatre -- and dance."
In a white, mirrored dance studio on Capilano Road, 13 dancers stand facing the barre in perfect first positions: heels touching, feet turned out to make 180 degrees.
Thirteen pairs of clear eyes look ahead, 13 necks are extended, 13 pairs of knees are pulled up straight. Typical of high-level teenage ballet students, their concentration is formidable.
Except these aren’t teenagers; they are pre-ballet students aged four to six, and they are in only their third week of classes at the Vancouver Junior Professional Division.
“We are different from most schools,” explains associate director Elizabeth Isabelle in a hushed voice as the girls practise rising to demi-pointe. “Our expectations are very high; we just don’t feel the need to teach them ‘the easy way,’ so we start with the hardest skills first. They can always do more than you think they can do.”
…For these students, if they want to further their dance training at the same level after they graduate from the program, they will likely leave the province. It’s a young age to be leaving home, but as with all of the arts in British Columbia, dance training and professional companies are under-funded and the few options available to talented dancers are simply too limited.
It’s always been this way, but last year, it started getting much, much worse.
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