Meet Estelle Tang, Taisiia Zamula, and Valentina Polanco! Each of these dancers graduated from the GBD Dance Performance program (P105) in August and promptly began their mentorship. The CBJ Mentorship program is a one-year intensive professional graduate training program open to graduates of GBD’s Dance Performance program and is designed to bridge the gap between student life and working professionally as a dancer.
For the next year, Estelle, Taisiia, and Valentina will work, train, and perform with CBJ. We caught up with these three dancers to hear about why they chose the program, what their hopes and goals are, and how GBD prepared them for this moment.
Why did you choose to do the mentorship program?
Estelle Tang: I chose to do the mentorship program to continue to improve my classical technique so that I can perform in a diversity of works: classical or modern, en pointe or not, etc. I wanted a solid transition from GBD’s well-rounded program to focusing on ballet. I was especially excited that I’d get to experience life as a ballet company dancer — having the same schedule, being held to the same professional standards, etc.
Taisiia Zamula: Mentorship is a great opportunity to transition from a student to a professional Ballet dancer. The mentorship program is about participating in the company class and rehearsals, which gives a full experience of what life in a company is like. I chose to do the mentorship to be inspired by Canada’s Ballet Jörgen dancers and grow as an artist.
Valentina Polanco: When I graduated from George Brown Dance, I knew I wanted to be part of a professional ballet company, but I felt I needed more preparation for it. This is why I thought the Mentorship program would be a great opportunity to transition from being a student to becoming a professional dancer. Having the chance to rehearse and perform with Canada’s Ballet Jörgen will give me the best tools for my future career.
What are your goals for the mentorship program?
ET: To solidify my technique while exploring intersections of ballet with other movement styles. I practice a few different movement styles, but I want ballet to be the focus, so I want to weave them together more seamlessly (a useful skill for picking up contemporary ballet/modern work). I want to challenge myself to learn as many parts as possible — and perform a few as well! Ultimately, my hope is to land a contract in an environment with significant classical ballet influence.
TZ: I hope that Mentorship will allow me to fill in the gaps in my ballet training and will allow me to start dancing more like a professional. I hope to learn how to take up more space when dancing, work on my musicality, become more confident, and work to my fullest potential. Another goal is to get stronger in my body and become more athletic.
VP: As I mentioned before, I want to be ready to join a ballet company; therefore, I need to work on my technique, strengthen my muscles and improve my theatrical skills needed for the mime work on stage. Besides that, I want to learn as much repertoire as possible and feel more comfortable performing on stage. In general, I want to experience the life of a professional dancer.
How did the P105 program prepare you to start the mentorship program?
ET: The mentorship is a largely self-directed program, but I graduated from P105 feeling prepared for it. I got to know the company dancers while I was still in P105, so I didn’t feel so nervous to approach them. We also had a repertoire course that taught us how to pick up choreography quickly from video. This helped because we understudy many pieces. The amazing faculty at GBD were instrumental in getting me to where I am now, both physically and mentally.
TZ: I can say with confidence that George Brown Dance prepared me to start the Mentorship program. Before coming to Canada, I trained in only one ballet technique – Vaganova. At George Brown, I was taught such techniques as Cecchetti, RAD, and others. I also always dreamed of trying modern and having modern at GBC helped me become more versatile.
VP: Something really useful from GBD was that I met most of the dancers of the company as they were part of the faculty and they taught me throughout the two years. This made it easier for me to integrate with the company and feel more comfortable dancing with them. The variety of styles I learned at GBD helped me to be more versatile and adapt my technique for any choreography, from classical to neoclassical works.
What are some lessons/experiences from GBD that have stayed with you?
ET: Relax. Working hard is good but know your limits so that you know which risks to take (you don’t want to be burnt out).
TZ: I loved Acting and Composition classes at GBD. The support of teachers helped me to look differently at myself and the world around me. I learned how to be creative and realized that there are no limits. I have learned that art is universal, and everyone deserves to have a place in it.
VP: George Brown Dance helped me go beyond the ballerina I was and become a whole artist. The large range of classes offered by GBD, including ballet, jazz, modern, acting, and vocals, allowed me to see myself being part of the whole dance industry, and taught me to get out of my comfort zone and push myself to work on developing new skills.
Interested in learning more about the Mentorship Program? Learn more about the Ballet Jörgen Mentorship & Contemporary Mentorship.
Written by Elise Tigges, Communications Contributer.