The School’s student body is made up of dancers from all over the country, and around the globe. This month, we decided to feature those of our current students who hail from Sudbury, Ontario, and nearby – first year students Alexander Koren and Hannah Pilon, and third year students Noah Blatt and Justin Fraser. Each one has had their own unique journey to dance, but they all started with Denise Vitali, owner and instructor at Sudbury School of Dance.
(L to R: Alexander Koren, Justin Fraser, Hannah Pilon, Noah Blatt © Colin Frotten)
NOAH: I was a gymnast for a while, and then when I decided I didn’t really want to do that, my parents encouraged me to try dancing. I first said “no”, but that immediately became a “yes” when I went to Sudbury School of Dance and met Denise Vitali, and spoke with her for a little bit. I thought, “Oh, this sounds awesome! How do I do it?”
ALEX: One day in Grade 6, we drove past an arts high school and I said “I want to go there and dance!” I don’t really know why that happened, but I ended up going there. I also danced with Arts North for a year, a studio opened by York University dance graduate Ashley Burton, before going to Sudbury School of Dance.
HANNAH: My mom knew Denise from college – she did theatre with her. And when I was three, I started taking ballet at Sudbury School of Dance, and then I continued taking dance classes… and now I’m here!
JUSTIN: I fell upon dance at Sudbury Secondary School. I actually went there as a sort of delinquent teenager. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do – I just knew I wanted to go to the performing arts high school, so I auditioned for the drama program. I did one semester, and was taught by Line Roberge (1988 grad). She convinced me to do a dance number in the school musical. I did that in the first term and fell in love with it, and then I switched to the dance program in second semester of grade 9. I did that for four years. When I was in grade 10, a fellow student said they were looking for dancers for earthdancers at Sudbury School of Dance. The company, earthdancers, is a non-profit dance organization that is student-run, under the guidance of Artistic Director Denise Vitali. The students do all the producing and fundraising, and they put on a benefit show every year. The organization promotes environmental awareness and raises funds to give to environmental causes. earthdancers started with Sunny Dixon Horvath (1994 grad), Heidi Strauss (1994 grad), and Stephanie Thompson.
We asked the students what it is about Sudbury that, in their opinion, produces such great dancers. They all agreed that they were inspired by Denise Vitali’s introduction to contemporary dance, and by her mentorship throughout the years.
Prior to coming to the School, all four students attended our Summer Intensives:
HANNAH: I went to the Summer Intensive with Justin and Noah. I did really just love the environment. I walked in and thought, “This feels like home. This feels how my old studio does – I like it here.” And then Justin and Noah were here at the School, so there was familiarity there as well. And Denise said it was a good school, and she had ties here, so it seemed that it was the way to go, because I’ve always wanted to dance (and ballet’s not going to be my thing!).
NOAH: I honestly didn’t know that I wanted to continue dancing after high school until I did the Summer Intensive here. That made me change basically everything I saw happening after high school. I was going to go into animation in Ottawa. (I don’t know why – I don’t know how to work a computer!) So when I did the Summer Intensive here, I thought “Wow, this is a place I’d like to be!” I didn’t feel that because my legs don’t have naturally high extension, I’m going to be at the bottom…. It’s about the love of dance. It really hit me right away that I want to be doing this sort of work.
When asked why they chose the School, many discussed the strong connections which already existed because of Denise, as well as references from School grads Lauren Pero Foy (2002), Sunny Dixon Horvath (1994), Line Roberge (1988), and Heidi Strauss (1994). They added:
ALEX: I’m not really a commercial dancer – I don’t have that kind of training. Many other schools around Toronto are commercial-based. I wanted to stay with what I knew, and what I enjoyed doing.
JUSTIN: I was here in 2008, and I dropped out after first semester. I went back home, got my hairdressing licence, and then I opened a business. I was still dancing with Denise, but I had sort of left the scene. Actually, watching Noah in his last year at the Sudbury School of Dance made me feel that I had a lot of unfinished things to do. I decided, at the age of 25, that it was now or never, so I jumped on the opportunity.
We at the School are delighted to have our longstanding connection with Sudbury, and send a shout-out to the inspirational Denise Vitali at the Sudbury School of Dance, who has given a start to so many aspiring young dancers who have gone on to become exceptional professional dance artists. Bravo, and thank you, Denise!