George Brown Dance student, Chabi Arauz Ypsilantis, recently fulfilled her childhood dream of dancing the role of Klara! Currently in her second year of the P105 Dance Performance program at George Brown, Chabi made her debut in Orillia, ON, on November 27th in Ballet Jörgen’s The Nutcracker: A Canadian Tradition. We caught up with her to hear about why she chose George Brown Dance for her post-secondary dance training, what it was like to perform with the Company, and her favourite part of the ballet.
Q: Could you please share with us how you came to George Brown and why you chose the program?
I first heard about George Brown from my dance teacher at home who danced in Canada many, many years ago. She heard about the program and that it was affiliated with Ballet Jörgen. I was looking for training programs, so she showed me the George Brown program — it is affiliated with the Company, and they have this mentorship program at the end. So, I went to the website, I read about the program, I saw what courses they offered, and I decided to send an audition. I got accepted and I decided to come here.
Q: You recently made your debut as Klara in Ballet Jörgen’s The Nutcracker: A Canadian Tradition. What was it like to be back on stage and perform with the Company?
It was really amazing! I am incredibly grateful that I got the opportunity to do it because I never would have imagined, a year ago, when I came here, that I would get to perform, especially with the uncertainty of COVID and everything that has happened. It was truly a blessing and I think it was one of the greatest experiences that I’ve ever had. It was so much fun to do.
Q: Do you have a favourite section of the ballet, and why?
There are so many things that I like throughout the ballet, especially for my character. I think doing Party scene is so much fun because you have so many interactions with so many different people and it makes up this whole scene. Then you have battle where you bring back so many elements from Party. It was fun rehearsing and discovering everything that was happening later and the connection to what had happened before. I thought it was so great! But I think my favourite part is the Snow scene. It’s so fun to throw snowflakes and to bring people on stage and create this magic. I really like the idea of throwing snowflakes then the snowflakes come alive. I think it’s like such a creative thing and it’s so fun to do, too.
Q: A great part of the GBD program is the partnership with Ballet Jörgen. It gives students the chance to be surrounded by a professional company and learn from them. What has been the greatest thing you have learned through this experience?
Well, it is certainly very inspiring to get to be around the Company because that’s the level obviously, that every aspiring ballerina is looking toward. That’s the dream. That’s the goal. So, being able to be surrounded by them is very inspiring and it’s reassuring that it is a possibility, and you can get there some day.
I’ve learned through this experience that performing is not just about just the dancing, or doing what you’re told, or looking at a video and doing what the video is doing. It’s also about the narrative and what you’re trying to tell the audience. Something that I find quite curious is that, especially with being more of a character role I would say, where you have to really act and think and narrate a story, not everything is going to be exactly the same every single time because you’re looking for the feeling and really sharing the story, and that’s ok. It’s very interesting and I’ve really enjoyed this whole process of sharing the story and making the audience feel something.
Q: For so many young dancers, Klara is a dream come true. Was it yours or do you have a dream ballet or role that you would like to dance? Maybe the answer is yes to both.
A funny story is that I had never been able to do Nutcracker before this year. This is my first time ever doing Nutcracker. I grew up watching it back at home. My sister was able to perform in it when she was younger, but I was always too young to audition and then I just never had the opportunity to audition for it and be in it. So, when I was growing up and I would watch it, my dream role was always to be Klara. Then, once I turned 15, I was like, yeah, I think I might be like a little too old for it now. I didn’t give up on the dream, but I was starting to think maybe I’ll have to find a company who does the thing where Klara is a company member so I can finally do it. So, it was really amazing that I got the opportunity to do this dream role that I was starting to believe I was never going to be able to do because I was too old. So, that was certainly a dream role of mine and then after I kind of put it aside, I started to believe that my dream role is to be the main character in Swan Lake — to be able to do both the white and the black swan. I think it’s a very demanding role to do in the one show, to be so soft and so enchanting and then being so evil. I just love it!
Learn more about the education opportunities through Ballet Jörgen and George Brown Dance, here!
There’s still time to catch Ballet Jörgen on stage with this holiday classic. Find a performance near you!