“When you’re sitting in Southam Hall and looking at the artists who breathe life into your soul, you should know you had a hand in bringing those feet up on stage.”
Erika Mills, Dance Teacher, École secondaire publique De La Salle
It’s a Friday night in April and the NAC Theatre is at maximum capacity, including over 100 dance students from across Ontario. They’re there to see Companhia Urbana de Dança – an internationally renowned dance troupe from Brazil. As the curtain falls for intermission, the students explode out of their seats.
“They came out screaming, ‘This is amazing,’” recalls Erika Mills, who runs the dance program at École secondaire publique De La Salle. “They were actually crying. I’ve never seen kids react so strongly to a dance performance.”
The students attended the performance as part of the partnership between NAC Dance and Festival de danse en milieu scolaire – a festival where French high school students gather for three days of intense dance training. The day after the performance, Sonia Destri Lie, the choreographer for Companhia Urbana de Dança and her nine dancers gave a two-hour workshop to the students.
“The dancers gave so much energy, teaching their Brazilian-influenced street forms and dance moves,” says Siôned Watkins, Education Associate and Teaching Artist, NAC Dance. “The energy in the room was palpable.”
Siôned explains that Sonia is a huge proponent of outreach. She found most of her dancers in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. “The dancers are here because of Sonia’s outreach so they give everything of themselves in return,” Siôned says.
Erika too is a proponent of outreach and is grateful to NAC Dance for the impact they have on her students. “Outreach is essential. If young people can’t see their dreams are possible, they’ll never be able to dream a future for themselves,” she says. “It’s amazing what the NAC offers to youth, thank you.”
Dance outreach at the NAC is supported by the National Youth and Education Trust, the primary resource for youth and education funding at the National Arts Centre. Through the Trust, individual and corporate donors from all across the country help the NAC nurture and develop the creativity of young people in all regions across Canada and support the educators and artists who challenge and encourage them.