Education and Classes, Features & Spotlights, GBD Alumni

Never Give Up: How GBD Alumna Courtnae Bowman Turned her Dream into Reality

February 11, 2020


Courtnae Bowman is Co-Artistic Director of The School of Cadence Ballet and Founder, Artistic Director of Cadence Ballet.

Courtnae Bowman began her teaching at the exceptionally young age of 13 after completion of the required Royal Academy of Dancing Examinations. She pursued her professional training at many schools, including George Brown College where she graduated in 2001 with honours and on the Dean’s List. (George Brown Dance is a partnership between Canada’s Ballet Jörgen and George Brown College). Bowman has had the pleasure of working with choreographers and teachers such as Arnold Spohr, Crystal Pite, David Earle, Annette Av Paul, and Karen & Allen Kaeja, among others. Prior to founding The School of Cadence Ballet, Bowman was the head of the ballet program at numerous schools, as well as on the faculty for Canada’s National Ballet School.

Courtnae has won many awards at festivals at the international level including Youth America Grand Prix, the World Ballet Art Grand Prix, and ADC International Ballet Competition. Her students have received top awards and attended international ballet schools. Courtnae works to further the development of dance artists and continually to push the boundaries of what is possible in whichever dream they choose to follow.

We spoke with Courtnae about her training at George Brown Dance, her outstanding achievements, and why it’s important to pursue your dreams.

Phot Edwin Luk Courtnae with Co-Artistic Director Zhenya Cerneacov in a piece by Donald Sales.

When did you attend the Dance Performance Program and what do you remember most about it?

I started training with an after-school program associated with Canada’s Ballet Jörgen in 1999 after seeing them perform in my hometown of Victoria, BC. When I entered the program at George Brown College, my goal was to dance with the company. 

I loved the fact that the company was working with new choreographers such as Crystal Pite. Furthermore, the ability to do both classical and contemporary work was a huge draw. Through the program I was able to take daily company class, work directly with Artistic Director Bengt Jörgen, be inspired daily by the company dancers, and see directly behind the scenes of a company, all while developing my technique. The program was incredibly intensive and hands on, and I was fortunate enough to be closely mentored during my time there, receiving professional guidance I cannot see experiencing elsewhere. 

Zhenya Cerneacov Courtnae teaching at The School of Cadence Ballet.

“The program was incredibly intensive and hands on, and I was fortunate enough to be closely mentored during my time there, receiving professional guidance I cannot see experiencing elsewhere.” 

Did the fact that the school was run by Canada’s Ballet Jörgen’s Artistic Director Bengt Jörgen make a difference to you deciding to attend this program?

Absolutely. The main training and education came from my hands-on experience with the Company, the dancers, faculty and Artistic Director Bengt Jörgen. For me, the college aspect was an added bonus.

You graduated from the program with honours and you were on the Dean’s List — this is quite an accomplishment — did you have a plan for after graduation?

Thank you, I was honoured and surprised by this! I entered each day at school with the same goal — to learn everything I could from the faculty. My goal was always to become the best I could be after graduation. The program gave me the opportunities to realize my dreams.

“As long as you have a dream, never give up.”

What advice would you give someone looking to pursue dance as a career, and what avenues can they explore after graduating?

As long as you have a dream, never give up. The dance community is filled with those who have never stopped dreaming. If your dream changes, that is something different, but never let anyone convince you that it is impossible. Remember that the dream can also be molded as you are the one visualizing it. 

For me, that moment was when I first saw my choreography being performed. I had to let go of my passion for performing and pick up another. This happened again with teaching. Seeing the spark in a dancer’s eyes when they made a discovery which allowed them to do something they never thought possible was everything to me. 

We often have graduates from The School of Cadence Ballet’s program go on to pursue academics rather than dance. Those students always say that the focus and drive they brought to dance ignites and guides them to excellence within their studies. Performing is only one way the excitement, incredible focus, and resilience that one has learned from dance can benefit the world. 

Zhenya Cerneacov Courtnae in class with her dance students.

The School of Cadence Ballet has been described as an acclaimed International Ballet School. What was your path to creating the school?

As a young child, I felt there was a need for a place which focused on giving young dancers the tools they needed to succeed rather than specializing in telling them their opinion of whether or not they would succeed. I was fortunate to find this as a young adult with Canada’s Ballet Jörgen and George Brown Dance. When I opened Cadence Ballet, the company, I saw that many emerging artists were looking for the same thing. We formed Cadence Bridges Ballet, the emerging artist program which offered training, mentorship, and performance opportunities to young emerging professionals. Cadence Youth Ballet eventually evolved to provide performance experience to children, and led to the formation of the school, and later The School of Cadence Ballet’s Professional Training Program. There was a demand for someone to provide tools to students, without judgement, and to believe in them. I see my role as eternally believing in students and guiding them to the best of my ability. My hope is to be a part of their journey wherever they choose to go.

What will you do after George Brown Dance? Start your Dance career Now!

Edited by Elise Tigges