Jocelyn Mah © Cylla von Tiedemann

One of our 16 brand new 2017 graduates, Jocelyn Mah hails from Calgary, Alberta. She was born and grew up there before she moved to Toronto to attend the School.

Jocelyn’s journey into dance started when she was about 11: “Dance has always been around in my life – my cousins took dance, and I knew a lot of other girls who danced, but I was really involved in studying music seriously. I played piano and did exams and recitals, but I also wondered about the relationship between movement and music, so I thought, if I like music I would probably like dance!  I started taking modern dance classes to test it out, and I was hooked. I later became a company member of Alberta Dance Theatre for Young People, where students helped to choreograph, which was super interesting for me, and I also trained at the school of Decidedly Jazz Danceworks.  Catherine Hayward, one of the company dancers, was my mentor at DJD, and my other important dance influence was Megan Gole, whose approach to dance was inspiring; she was a really wonderful person to be around.”

Training as a young dancer in Calgary was special: “The dance scene is small but very welcoming; you can get in contact with professionals very easily and they are happy to work with you and mentor you. They are very humble and generous with their time. I experienced that with Decidedly Jazz Danceworks; many of the company dancers teach classes and you can really get to know them.”

In her last days as a student at the School of TDT, Jocelyn recounts how she ended up here: “I was very focused on academics in high school, so I was looking at university programs and planning my auditions at Ryerson, York, and University of Calgary; I wanted a degree. But then I saw an audition poster for the School – it featured a dancer doing a jump (Mathieu Trépanier, 2013 graduate) – I thought, wow, he looks so good; wonder if I could ever do something like that? But then it hit me – I can do a summer intensive and try it out! I came to the summer school, and after the first day of classes, I called my mom and said, this is it; this is where I want to train.”

Jocelyn Mah © Cylla von Tiedemann

The three years at the School have been challenging and gratifying for Jocelyn: “The program is very physically demanding – you dance all day, every day. Seeing how much I can grow and push myself is very rewarding. I’ve had many moments watching my peers perform, or performing myself, or even in class, that remind me what I’m meant to be doing with my life. It’s important to remember these moments because sometimes you think – why am I doing this? And then you think, yeah, I remember when I saw my classmates performing Paul-André Fortier’s Tell, and I cried, because this is what it’s all about.”

A few words to the future students at the School from Jocelyn: “The School has made me a dancer – technically, artistically, emotionally. I’ve started choreographing and got a taste of the professional world here at the School. The program makes you so much stronger and so much more ready to face the world.”

This summer, Jocelyn is “facing the world” as the inaugural recipient of the Winchester Prize – she will be mentored by Susie Burpee, and her choreographic piece August, Augusta will be presented at SummerWorks Performance Festival this August. Here are Jocelyn’s words of thanks, when she was announced as the winner of the prize: “What an incredible honour it is to be the recipient of the inaugural Winchester Prize, along with my wonderful classmates Nicola Adilman and Tylee Jones, the second and third place recipients. We would like to thank Lindy Green and Sam Chaiton for their exceptional generosity, as well as Julia Sasso, Laura Nanni, SummerWorks Performance Festival, Pat Fraser, and The School of Toronto Dance Theatre for making this possible. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, ‘The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.’ Thank you for investing in our futures, believing in our artistry, and encouraging us to keep dreaming.”

Congratulations, Jocelyn, and best of luck!