Arts

U of O students dance professionally at Centrepointe Studio Theatre Nov. 28

 Photos by Sabrina Nemis

Jasmine Lee is probably more organized than the average student. She studies environmental science full-time, choreographs for CASCO, the Telfer School of Management’s student-run charity organization, and dances professionally. It doesn’t leave her with a lot of free time to chat with friends on Facebook or send Snapchats.

“It’s a lot about organizing my time, writing down a schedule, and knowing exactly when I have to have things done,” says Lee, who’s in her second year at the University of Ottawa.

On Nov. 28 at 7:30 p.m. at the Centrepointe Studio Theatre, her dance company, Exordium Dance Collective, collaborates with Connect Contemporary Dance Organization to put on Intertwined, a contemporary dance performance.  Most of the dancers are students and they all have to stay on top of their commitments in order to dance professionally while studying.

“It’s a pretty strict schedule. If I lose time, then I either lose dance time or study time, and my parents won’t accept my school grades to go down,” says Ashley Jeon, a first-year U of O health science student and dancer with Connect Dance.

Professional dancers have usually been dancing for at least 10 years by the time they graduate from high school, and like most athletes in school, they work hard to stay balanced.

“Dancers are time management experts,” says Tressa Wilson, artistic director of Exordium Dance Collective.

Compared to the demands of competitive dancers, however, the two companies provide a schedule that allows the dancers to maintain an easier balance.

Jennifer Eriksson, also a first-year health science student and dancer with Connect Dance, says that because she only has to rehearse on weekends, she’s able to spend her weekdays focused on school. The schedule also allows her to teach dance on Saturday mornings before heading to rehearsal.

“Both of our companies operate on a part-time basis and we want dancers who’ve trained all of their life to be able to continue dancing—not just have to stop after high school,” says Claire Berry, artistic director of Connect Dance.

Berry and Wilson organized and choreographed Intertwined to give professional dancers who stay in Ottawa the opportunity to showcase their talent.

“Most professional dancers who are from here go to Toronto or Montreal. Everybody kind of leaves, which is shameful,” says Wilson.

“We have so many talented dancers that come from this city and so many fantastic venues that show a lot of dance, but nothing from Ottawa.”

For students, dancing professionally rather than competitively allows them to work on artistry, rather than the more gymnastic and technical elements required to be successful in competition.

“In competition you have to have a certain amount of tricks to score a certain mark and it’s about trying to get the best mark,” Berry says. “In the contemporary and professional world it’s about being the best dancer you can be.”

While Berry and Wilson recognize that competitive dancing requires enormous talent and dedication, they hope this performance will focus more on a story the audience can appreciate even without a dance background.

“You’re not sitting there thinking, ‘Wow, they’ve got great technique,’” says Wilson. “You’re watching the story they’re creating.”                         

Tickets are $27.50 and are available through the Centrepointe Studio Theatre website.