© Brooke Ann Trisolini

Recently we caught up with the President of the School’s Student Council, Kristen Stambolic, to see how her third year is going.

Kristen grew up here in Toronto and still lives in the house where she grew up. She attended Rosedale Heights School of the Arts, not far from the School, and remembers coming here for field trips and shows with her classmates: “I started dancing when I was in Grade 10, a little bit later than most people here at the School, and the two people who really pushed me and fostered me as a dancer were Maryanne Marsh and Candice Spykers, both teachers in the dance program at Rosedale. I was very fortunate to have them as my advocates. The program at Rosedale Heights is very well-rounded; students train in contemporary, jazz, and other styles, and do a lot of creative work. When I was in high school we had a chance to work with amazing guest artists like Bonnie Kim and Peggy Baker – both graduates of the School of TDT!”

Kristen cites seeing Severe Clear at the Fleck Dance Theatre as one of her earliest dance memories: “I can’t remember how old I was, probably in middle school, and my sister and I got tickets to see this dance show from a family friend. It turned out to be Christopher House’s Severe Clear, danced by Toronto Dance Theatre. I had no idea what TDT was then, but I remember how amazing it was, and that it had all those inflated set pieces that looked like ice cubes on the stage. I realized that it was a TDT show only when I started training at the School and saw the poster for the piece in the building! It is cool how I came full circle with this experience.”

© Bob House

Kristen had her heart set on the arts when it came to looking for post-secondary school options: “I really wanted to be a musician when I was in high school, but then I fell in love with dance! In a way, it was a good thing that I started so late – I wasn’t burnt out, and I definitely wanted to keep discovering things in dance. This really pushed me towards the idea of post-secondary dance training. When I looked at several programs, the School stood out as the most rigorous. We dance all day, every day, and you don’t really get that type of training anywhere else. A lot of people from my high school trained here, so I had first-hand advice from them. The idea of taking class every day, with a variety of different teachers and people from all over the world, seemed very appealing to me.”

Now in her third year at the School, Kristen has advice of her own to give: “Here at the School you have so many classes, and you work with different styles and different teachers, so you have to immerse yourself fully in this amazing training. It is challenging, but at the same time, only if you give it your all, are you able to go further. I’m so lucky I get to wake up every day knowing that I’ll be spending my day training with dancers who are in the same mindset as me, it pushes me further. This program is great for everyone who is after intense training to become strong technical dancers. I would also recommend the PTP to anyone who would like to explore the many different facets of dance – there are so many opportunities to choreograph, to create, to collaborate with your schoolmates, to work with professional choreographers, and to establish connections that may open projects down the road.”

A still from Kristen’s film 18 Hectares featuring her classmate Devon Snell.

Since she started the program, Kristen has been thinking about what is to come after she graduates: “I’ve always dreamt of being a choreographer, but at the same time I also want to dance for a while after graduation, just to experience all the different things that are out there. I’m also super curious about the intersection of dance and film/photography, so I will be looking into further training – maybe at the OCAD University – to explore how different media work together. I am definitely going to go after every creative opportunity that comes my way – I think this is the best option for me.”

At IMPULSE 2017, Kristen and her classmates are dancing in a new work by Apolonia Velasquez, and an excerpt from Pingo Slink, created for TDT by Christopher House: “I’m really excited for the audiences to see Pingo Slink because this piece hasn’t been set on the School students before. It’s kind of cool that the piece was made in 1996 and most of us were born in 1996! The work is still so relevant and I’m curious to see how it affects the audiences today. I am also super stoked for Apolonia’s piece – she choreographs right up to the moment it’s time for the show, so I am excited to see how this process unfolds.”