“I’ve grown a lot this year as a dancer and a person with the guidance of my teachers.”
At the beginning of the school year, Katie Couchie shared her inspirational dance journey that led her to GBD. Now we’re catching up with Katie on the highlights of her first year in GBD’s two-year Dance Performance Program. Each of her experiences — from training with GBD’s industry-leading faculty, to working on new creations with GBD alumni and guest artists — have helped her grow in her dance artistry and technique.
Reflecting on the past year, Katie identifies her instructors as central to her development. “I’ve grown a lot this year as a dancer and a person with the guidance of my teachers,” says Katie. In particular, Katie gained more confidence in her contemporary technique after training with GBD’s Modern Dance instructor Anisa Tejpar. “Being able to make that connection with someone so successful in the industry is something I’m really thankful for,” Katie reflects. Other highlights from her first-year classes included Repertoire with Hanna Kiel and weekly coaching sessions with Svea Eklof. “We have class with Svea every Monday,” Katie explains. “She’ll pick one thing to focus on, and we’ll spend the whole class doing different exercises revolving around that idea. I get to start every week with something new to work on for the next week. It’s pushed me as a dancer and has helped me improve a lot.”
GBD’s enrichment programs have been another major component of Katie’s experience over the past year. She participated in Canada’s Ballet Jörgen’s Initiative Program, which offers select GBD students the opportunity to learn company repertoire with former full-time CBJ company dancer, Clea Iveson. Katie learned the piece Rendezvousby Robert Desrosiers over the course of one semester. “It’s a really challenging piece of repertoire. I’m really thankful that I got to learn it,” says Katie. “It’s contemporary ballet, which is the style I love to do. Working with Clea was also a lot of fun!”
Katie also gained valuable performance experience throughout the year. In her first semester, she auditioned for GBD’s annual in-studio showcase, IN HÄUS, and was selected for two new creations choreographed by GBD alumni Irma Villafuerte and Elise Tigges. “I enjoyed the process of working with those two choreographers,” Katie reflects. “Both pieces were really special for me because they were based around grief and loss. They helped me grieve some recent losses in my own life.”
“This experience inspired me to keep going. It showed me that all my hard work one day will be worth it and will pay off.”
Katie’s performance experience continued into her second semester with rehearsals for Unleashed, GBD’s largest production of the season. Katie enjoyed the immersive performance experience, which included auditions, working with distinguished guest artists on the creation of new works, and dancing in two live shows at Toronto’s Betty Oliphant Theatre. Katie was selected for two very different pieces: an offbeat contemporary piece by Alyssa Martin of Rock Bottom Movement, and an elegant classical ballet piece by CBJ Principal Dancer Saniya Abilmajineva. The opportunity to work with both choreographers was very significant to Katie, who shares: “I’ve always admired Alyssa’s work. No one does anything like it. Working with her was like a dream come true. I was also really happy to get picked for Saniya’s piece. She really pushed me, and I got to work a lot on my pointe technique. I’m just really thankful that I got to learn from her because she’s like an icon here.”
In addition to these two creations, Katie also performed Irma and Elise’s works in Unleashed. Performing in four different pieces gave Katie real insight into the challenges that professional dancers face during a performance. “Looking back on it, the hardest part was switching characters so many times so fast,” she reflects. “It was a really good challenge because dancers often have to switch their emotions within a show.”
GBD’s unique relationship with Canada’s Ballet Jörgen led to another performance opportunity for Katie at Toronto’s Betty Oliphant Theatre. At the end of April, Katie performed in the company’s production of Coppélia in the roles of Town Doll and Creature. “It was a full-circle moment to be on stage with the company that first inspired me to dance,” says Katie, whose dream to dance began at the age of seven after seeing CBJ’s production of The Nutcracker in North Bay, Ontario. “This experience also re-inspired me. Going to school for dance is wonderful but is also very hard. It takes a lot of hard work to be able to succeed in this program. This experience inspired me to keep going. It showed me that all my hard work one day will be worth it and will pay off.”
With the school year now complete, Katie is continuing her dance training over the summer in specialized programs. “I am going to the Joffrey Ballet School in New York City for their ballet summer intensive,” she shares. “Then I’m flying to Calgary to go to the Alberta Ballet summer intensive for the whole month of July.” Katie plans to spend August back home in Nipissing before returning to GBD in September.
Katie is already looking forward to her second year of the Dance Performance Program when she will specialize in classical dance, with more advanced training in ballet and pointe. She is excited for several features of the program, including a full year of classes with GBD Associate Director Derek Sangster, additional coaching from Svea Eklof, and Composition class with Hanna Kiel. “I’m a little nervous for Composition because I’ll be creating my own piece, which I’ve never done before,” says Katie. “But I’m really interested to see what I will achieve in that class.”
Undoubtedly, Katie’s growth and achievements will continue as she progresses through her dance training and career. Learn what is next for Katie when we catch up with her again next year!
Written by Victoria Campbell Windle, CBJ Communications Contributor.
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