A Chance to Dance

Alberta Ballet School creates Virtual Training Program to allow students to train from home thanks to $13,100 grant from ECF

Ballet is an intense, strict art form that many dancers spend hours daily perfecting, and COVID-19 has set many training ballerinas back almost a year on their skills.

Alberta Ballet School is known for its prestigious patented curriculum and its private education option accredited by Alberta Education for full-time dancers. The school offers various part-time and full-time programs for dancers of all ages, but all classes came to a halt in March due to COVID-19.

“COVID-19 affected all of our lives,” says a parent who enrolled her daughter in virtual ballet classes. “My daughter is doing everything online – school, piano lessons, French lessons, and ballet lessons.

”Online training isn’t the same, but it’s necessary to protect our health,” she says.

All ballet classes were put on pause until the summer, causing many dancers to lose months of practice. Taryn Klassen, Head of Junior School, says that it can take up to a year for dancers to re-learn their skills after five months without training.

“Dance is really such a safe place for a lot of them, and it’s their outlet where they can come and express their emotions, says Klassen. “For that to be so abruptly taken away from our students was quite devastating.”

Thankfully, a $13,100 grant from Edmonton Community Foundation allowed Alberta Ballet School to film professional-quality instructional videos for the Virtual Training Program. The Virtual Training Program consists of live online training and complementary videos that show proper technique and theory-based learning.

“Even if live performance is not possible during the pandemic, it’s important that artists are able to continue honing their discipline,” Nneka Otogbolu, ECF’s Director of Communications and Equity Strategy, says. “This grant is a way to help these dancers stay on track and continue pursuing their goals.”

The videos are available to 14 students currently enrolled in the program who, due to factors such as social distancing, are prevented from doing their training in-person.

Alberta Ballet School recognizes that while some dancers and their families feel safe coming to the studio, that isn’t the case for everyone. They believe everyone should have the opportunity to dance and feel safe doing it.

The other motive for the Virtual Training Program was that the students wouldn’t go without training in case of another lockdown.

“We’re really grateful to Edmonton Community Foundation for helping us get this project going,” says Klassen. “There was a lot of uncertainty about what would happen if a lockdown came again. It gave a lot of our families confidence that the students would have some really valuable resources to them.”

People have had to give up many hobbies in the face of COVID-19, but Alberta Ballet School has done the most they can to ensure that their students don’t have to give up their creative outlet a second time.

“The new virtual training is not a replacement,” says a parent about a daughter’s involvement in the program. “It can’t be the same as before, but it’s something, and it’s good to know that you are involved in something, and you can maintain your skills.”

Learn more about ECF’s COVID-19 response.