Heather Lumsden-Ruegg is gracefully dancing her way into her sixth season with Canada’s Ballet Jörgen [CBJ]. Growing up in the town of Newmarket Ontario, Heather started taking ballet classes at the young age of 12. Heather experimented with different types of dance including Irish dance, modern and jazz, before solely focusing on ballet. While doing a summer program at the Toronto Dance Theatre, Heather realized that she wanted to be a professional dancer. She auditioned and was accepted into the P105 George Brown Dance Program, but little did she know it was the start of her prosperous dance career. When we asked her why she chose George Brown College she thoughtfully replies, “In the audition it was a really welcoming atmosphere and everything felt positive. Even when we were working really hard in class there wasn’t anything about GBC that made me feel bad about myself, which I had experienced in other auditions and workshops.” Without a doubt choosing George Brown College was the right move for Heather! After graduating from GBC, Heather joined CBJ’s mentorship program.
We asked her why she decided to choose Canada’s Ballet Jörgen. “After I graduated, Ballet Jörgen was the big opportunity that was presented to me. I am lucky in the way that I didn’t have to go out and look for something because it was almost given to me on a platter. I was told I had the opportunity to work towards something and I decided to take it.”
With all her talent, Heather was accepted into the vigorous 5 week summer intensive program, Junior Company. With completing Junior Company, Heather was chosen for RBC’s apprentice program. The apprentice program allows young dancers, starting their professional careers to gain the experience necessary to succeed technically and artistically as a professional dancer. After a year of being an apprentice, Heather’s extraordinary talent and captivating dancing landed her a spot as a Company Dancer for Canada’s Ballet Jörgen.
Thinking back, Heather describes to us the different steps and transitions from being a mentorship student, junior company member, apprentice and now part of the main company.
“I think being a student is an important step to talk about even before being a mentorship student. Through all the steps it’s about learning and absorbing all the possible information that you can. Learning is never really finished and I think who you’re taking inspiration from will change. As a student you look up to your peers as well as the company, but mostly just your peers because that’s who you work with every day. You also gather your strengths and really learn as much as you can from the people who surround you and that’s the same throughout all the stages. It’s just the people you are surrounded by change. As a mentorship student, you’re launched into working with the company and it’s a lot of observing and not as much as dancing as when you’re a student. You have to find your opportunities to dance and to learn how to become a professional through observing professionals. You also learn the way that they move, the attitude that they have towards their work and how you can embody that. As a mentorship student that was the big thing, learning how to dance like a professional and there is a different between dancing like a student and dancing like a professional. From there, I did the Junior Company program which is a summer intensive that gives you professional experience. It’s an extension to being a mentorship student, except you’re surrounded by other young hopeful professionals. It gave us an opportunity to see, I don’t want to say “what our competition was”, but essentially they were our competition. It gave me the opportunity to see other people in the same position as us, and where they were at. Being an apprentice is the next step, and that’s when you have the responsibility of being finally paid to do what you do. There is more weight on your shoulders and more pressure to perform well. From there, being in the company you have to be more sure of yourself then as an apprentice. But essentially it’s still the same thing and it’s always a learning experience.”
Heather told us that having a unique dance background helped her transition from being a student to a dancer. “I have a very unique background, mainly the fact that dancers don’t go into ballet the way that I did. I just really loved ballet and I never had the understanding that I could go into ballet as a career until I came here and I worked with some of the teachers that I worked with. I think that my background has helped me in the way that I approached my professional training from a performer’s perspective. Performing was my strength going into it. It wasn’t the technical aspects and the technical aspects are still not my strength. But the fact that I had a performance background helped carry me to transition from being a student to being a professional dancer.”
Heather has danced in roles including Czardash and Spanish Dancers in Swan Lake, Flower Courtiers, Knitting Vines, Picnic Party and Naiads in Sleeping Beauty, Tall and Small stepsister in Cinderella along with different roles in The Nutcracker, a Canadian Tradition. We asked Heather what she thinks is her greatest success. “It honestly feels like a huge thing that I’m here. If you had asked me 5 or 6 years ago whether I’d still be doing this, I probably would not have a clue. I’ve learned and improved a lot and I think it’s all a huge accomplishment. To me it’s about the big picture and not as much about the little things.”
Looking ahead, we asked Heather what her future looks like.
“I don’t know, that’s a good question. One that I start to think about more and more as time goes by. Hopefully I will still be dancing in some capacity, whether it be professionally or recreationally. I would also love to travel more and Ballet Jörgen has opened that up for me. I would love to continue to do that wherever I am in my life.”
Our anniversary marks 30 years of training and supporting young artists like Heather and helping them to achieve their goals. Please consider joining us in our 30-year birthday celebration with a gift of $30. Until July 31st, KPMG is generously partnering with us to match all gifts up to $5,000.