For most young dancers, training at an international dance school seems like a dream that could never come true. But International Ballet Workshops (IBW) is helping to make such dreams a reality. Twice each year, IBW brings elite international ballet teachers to Australia and New Zealand for a series of workshop tours, and each time the guest teacher brings exclusive opportunities for some lucky students.
One such dance student is 17-year-old Henriette Hartl, formerly of the Amanda Bollinger Dance Academy in Queensland. Hartl is currently living her dream, training at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School in Canada, an opportunity that came about from attending IBW last year. This is her story.
I first heard about International Ballet Workshops from our studio director, Amanda Bollinger. I attended The Russian IBW in January 2016 on the Gold Coast. Previously, I had attended The Paris Workshop and The Béjart Workshop.
The Russian Workshop was a unique opportunity to learn from two exceptional teachers, Anastasia Dunets and Stanislav Belyaevsky, who are trained in the Vaganova method. They were so knowledgeable and encouraging, even though I sometimes worried that I was not good enough! I am overcoming Selective Mutism, which is an anxiety disorder where I cannot speak when I am anxious. These teachers were so kind that I was able to do my best for them and feel relaxed at the same time. I loved learning new variations, but my favourite time was learning pas de deux with Mr. Stanislav.
I can’t really believe what happened next… I was awarded a scholarship to attend the final auditions for Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet School! At first, I was excited, but I never really believed I would be accepted into the Professional Division. Every day, we took classes in ballet technique, pointe classes, pas de deux and variations. We learned to find our way around the amazing RWB building, which is a facility designed and built specifically for dance, with 12 huge studios and a whole floor for the company dancers. In the evening, after dinner in the dining hall, we returned to our boarding residences. As an older student, I was allowed to board at the nearby university in a private room.
After a week, I received an email with the most amazing news! The director, Ms. Minkhorst, offered me a full-time place in the Professional Division, starting in early September. I was thrilled because I knew in my heart that this was the place I was meant to be. Somehow, with the kindness and patience of everyone I met at the school, I was making significant progress with my Selective Mutism. I trusted in the teachers and allowed my true self to dance.
Living and training in Canada is a dream come true. I never thought I would be capable of leaving Australia, but I feel so accepted and loved here, that the transition has been easy. I live in the boarding residence, where I share a double room with Natsume, who comes from Japan.
My day starts with classes from 8.30am to 12:00pm. Then we change and have a quick lunch in the dining hall before walking together to The Collegiate for our academic lessons from 1:00pm to 3.30pm. Rehearsals are next until 6.30pm, then dinner, where I enjoy the beautiful meals. As a vegan, I always have interesting options.
Currently, we are rehearsing for Concert Hour Ballet, where we will perform around the city and across the province of Manitoba for a week. I’m so excited to experience not only the performances but also the scenery of this beautiful country. The temperatures are already dropping, and I’ve been told it can go as low as -50 degrees!
I feel truly blessed that I have the opportunity to attend the RWB School, and I intend to work hard, learn from my remarkable teachers and believe in myself. Perhaps one day, I will have the honour of joining the RWB Company – but for now, I love my life!
If you are attending International Ballet Workshops this year, not only will you experience highly sought-after teachers from around the world, you may have doors opened for you that you never expected. In my case, it was a perfect match.
The most valuable thing I took away from my experience at IBW was to trust in others and be your true self – even if that is anxious, nervous or lacking in confidence – because when you trust in others to see the real you, wonderful things happen!
Registration for International Ballet Workshops’ Summer 2017 Giselle series is now open, to students aged seven and up. This year, Mr. Tony Taylor will be coming from Germany, where he is the resident classical ballet teacher at Tanzcompagnie Gießen/Stadttheater Gießen. For more information or to register, go to: internationalballetworkshops.com. You can also follow the Facebook page: www.facebook.com/InternationalBalletWorkshops/.
Photo (top): Henriette Hartl (right). Photo by Stephan Bollinger Photography.