“The mentorship program has made me more aware of the kinds of things I need to do for myself.”
CBJ’s mentorship students Jade Chaplin, Adam Davidson, Sierra Goldak, and Rachel Schilberg have enjoyed a full season of CBJ rehearsals, performances, tours, and education programs. In this interview, Jade, Adam, Sierra, and Rachel reflect on the biggest lessons they’ll take away from their experience and share some words of advice and encouragement to dancers considering CBJ’s mentorship opportunity.
Congratulations on a wonderful season with CBJ. What is something you learned from being immersed in the company environment as a mentorship student?
I saw how company members picked up choreography and used different strategies to learn quickly. That drove me to figure out what worked best for me. You never know when you’re going to be thrown into rehearsal, so picking up choreography quickly is important. That was one of my biggest goals coming into the program because it was something I struggled with, and I’ve definitely gotten better.
I learned to be my own teacher. In classes, you aren’t always given stuff to work on. You have to do it yourself. Overall, it’s made me a more motivated person. I’ve always been a go-getter, but the mentorship program has made me more aware of the kinds of things I need to do for myself. I’ve learned how to take initiative within a professional company environment.
I learned a lot from watching Svea Eklof’s coaching rehearsals. In the last year and a bit of working with Svea and seeing her work with others, I’ve been fascinated by her ability to identify exactly what causes us difficulty and how the issue can be resolved. I get to try to see what she sees. Her eye is so refined that she can pinpoint the smallest discrepancies in a dancer’s movement that would otherwise look perfectly fine to me.I also notice the various ways she addresses individual dancers in the company based on what she hopes will make enough sense for them to apply, and how even those approaches differ from the ones she takes with me or with the George Brown students.
What I’ve taken away from this experience is that you have got to be really driven to be here. Seeing a company dancer do something that I couldn’t do lit a fire under me and got me going. Being surrounded by excellence was very motivating and really drove me to push myself.
“You don’t grow unless there’s a little bit of struggle. I learned to find those low days and make them high days. It’s all a building process.”
What is something new you discovered about yourself through this experience?
Something I know now that I didn’t know before is that some of my favourite work was actually not even related to performing. I discovered that there are things I like outside of being on stage. For example, I enjoyed interacting with and rehearsing the local dancers during The Nutcrackertour and helping with odd jobs in the theatre. I think being backstage is fun too!
I’ve always known I wanted to dance, but this year made me realize how much I really do want to dance. I have a lot of long-term goals. They’re going to be hard and it’s probably going to take me a long time. I’d like to perform, so I’ll spend the next year auditioning. I’m not usually the type of person that would be okay with not knowing what comes next, but this program has made me more open.
You learn more about yourself in the program. Some days, it is hard just to get out of bed and get here. Those are the days I learn the most about myself. You don’t grow unless there’s a little bit of struggle. I learned to find those low days and make them high days. It’s all a building process.
Definitely throughout mentorship I realized performing is my favourite part of dance. Dancing with the company in The Nutcracker was the best part of the year for me. The program has reinforced that I would love a performance career.
“…the program is for you. You’re not there to impress everyone. You’re there to learn.”
What advice do you have for future mentorship students?
You have to do things for yourself in order to have a successful career. The mentorship program does a good job of transitioning you from a student to a professional. You go from doing the George Brown program full time, where your teachers tell you everything you’re supposed to do, to this middle ground where you still get some guidance, but you have to initiate things for yourself. Go in with an open mind knowing that. Also, know that the company dancers are supportive, so you should never feel intimidated by them. We’ve made such strong friendships and I know even when we’re finished with the program, we’ll stay friends with them. They’re very encouraging and they want to help you get better.
Always go in looking for things to improve on. You’re at the point where only certain people tell you certain things and how to fix them, so you have to be looking critically at yourself. Be aware of the state you’re in and your abilities, in general.
If you’re wanting a career in dance, the program allows you learn about the professional world. One thing to keep in mind is that the program is for you. You’re not there to impress everyone. You’re there to learn.
Don’t let the days when the rehearsal directors don’t address you individually make you feel like you’re not part of anything. My advice would be not to wait for someone to give you a task or ask you to do something. You can ask if there is something you could be learning, something you could be practicing, or something you could be doing to help out. If anyone out there is doing mentorship next year, be excited that you’ll grow as a person and dancer very quickly.
Register for an audition with GBD and learn more about your pathway to a mentorship opportunity with CBJ.
Written by Victoria Campbell Windle, CBJ Communications Contributor.
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