Today we’re giving you a sneak peek into 4 of our dance companies to get to know a little bit more about them and their performances in schools. Take a look at the snapshot below for an overview, and read the interview for more in-depth questions!
Answering today’s questions we have representatives from four of Prologue’s dance companies:
AKA Dance: Amy Hampton, Artistic Director
Esmeralda Enrique Spanish Dance Company: Jennifer Watkins, General Manager
Little Pear Garden Dance Company: Cindy Yip, Arts Manager & Performer
National Ballet: Lisa Robinson, Education and Outreach Manager
How did you get started in dance?
Lisa: I joined in with my friend at her ballet class after a sleepover when I was 7 years old, and I just loved it and asked my Mum and Dad if I could start ballet lessons. I was exposed to ballet, jazz and tap in my home town of Mount Gambier, South Australia. I then went on to train at The Australian Ballet School in Melbourne at the age of 16, which then led me to Europe and North America to audition upon graduation. I joined The National Ballet of Canada in 1998.
Jennifer: Esmeralda started dancing as a child performing Mexican folkloric dance in San Antonio, Texas. Her mother was keen on her children participating in the arts so the whole family performed at local festivals. After seeing a flamenco performance, Esmeralda and her sister started taking classes. Soon the girls were invited to join Luisa Triana’s company in California. US tours for José Greco’s company followed before they traveled to Spain to experience flamenco dance and culture. Esmeralda performed with Spain’s top flamenco companies and came to Toronto in 1981 as the lead dancer in a Spanish club. She founded the Esmeralda Enrique Spanish Dance Company the following year.
Cindy: My mother first put me in ballet classes when I was 7, but it didn’t appeal to me at all. Then she found a Chinese folk dance class. I was intrigued by the diversity of dance styles, interesting costumes and the many props that were used. It was like knowing about many different cultures that I had not met yet were part of my heritage. I love learning things that are not in any classroom or mainstream education through personal experience.
Amy: I announced to my parents at 2 years old that I wanted to be a dancer but have no idea where the idea came from. I started dancing at the National Ballet School when I was six and haven’t stopped.
What is your favourite part about performing for young audiences?
Jennifer: Young audiences respond to dance in a very intuitive way. They are often mesmerized by watching the movement of our dancing and are intrigued by the steps we execute. They show great interest in wanting to try to dance themselves. When performing we are not surprised by vocal outbursts of excitement. This is very appropriate during a flamenco performance. The questions asked following performances are always a delight. Of course there are the ones we always get. “Do your feet hurt? How old are you? How long have you been dancing? But often we are surprised by the insight and depth of the questions asked.
Cindy: To share some of that wonder that led me to focus on culturally specific dance.
Lisa: My favorite part about performing for these audiences is hearing the student’s excitement and amazement when they see the dancers perform, as well as transform themselves with makeup and wigs, and become different characters. A lot of times it is the students first experience with the art form. I can’t express how much it means to be part of their first experience with an art form I love.
Amy: They get it! Young audiences are so open and perceptive and they understand the language of dance intuitively. They come along for the ride with so much imagination and honesty.
Tell us about an inspiring moment or fond memory you have from a school performance:
Jennifer: In one school a little girl put up her hand very keen to ask a question. When called upon it was clear that she had difficulty speaking. The girl next to her talked the question over with her and asked the question on her behalf. It was wonderful to see the enthusiasm of the little girl and heart-warming to see how her friend supported her.
Lisa: My favorite memory of hosting the performance was when I chose a young boy to assist with translating some of the mime of the Character artist.
This young boy had a learning disability and stood proud and strong in front of 300 students and teachers in the gym and expressed with his body and some words what he thought the gestures meant, and had everyone give him a standing ovation. A very touching memorable moment I won’t forget.
Amy: There are so many! One of the best moments we had was when we noticed one of the students really enjoying the performance and the teacher came up to us afterwards to tell us that was the first time they had seen him smile all year. It sounds like he was having trouble fitting in at school, and our show, which is essentially about making it okay to not fit the mold, seemed to connect with him. Those are the inspiring moments that keep us doing what we do!
Do you have any tips for teachers trying to incorporate dance curriculum into their classroom?
Lisa: Ultimately, we want students to be exposed to dance and culture in their lives and be inspired. A great way to begin the conversation and add dance into your classroom and curriculum, is to begin with Dance About!
Cindy: Take advantage of the teaching guide, read up on the artists and their show beforehand then think of how to introduce the idea to your students and come up with some exercises. The students are a lot more engaged and benefit much, much more from the show when teachers are experienced and prepared. I have met teachers who could build a big chunk of their work around Prologue shows because they are very good at identifying educational elements and moments and allow the artists to be their inspiration. Every artist and every performance has a lot to give.
Lastly, we asked each company to tell us how they would like students to feel after watching their performances. Take a peek at their answers below: