The School’s student body is made up of dancers from all over the country, and around the world.
This month, we are featuring two of our third year international students: Kurumi Yoshimoto (Osaka, Japan) and Yael Zifroni (Shoham, Israel), who are the co-winners of the 2020 Kathryn Ash Scholarship.
Before coming to the School, Kurumi trained at private dance studios in Japan, and earned her B.A. in Psychology in 2015 from Kwansei Gakuin University. She came to Canada in 2017 to study contemporary dance, and spent one year with the Chimera Project’s Company B Lab before attending the School. In the summer of 2019, she trained at The Ailey School with world-renowned dancers and choreographers such as Tracy Inman and Judith Jamison. She also participated in the Summer Intensive Program with ProArteDanza, which earned her an invitation to be an apprentice with the company for their 2019 fall season. Faculty at the School of TDT have noted that Kurumi is a highly accomplished, technically strong dancer; she is dedicated to her training, is very proactive in her approach to learning, and takes initiative to realize her goals.
YAEL ZIFRONI (photo: Heather Jefferys)
Yael started her training in various styles at the DulyArt Dance School in Israel. Since moving to Toronto in 2018 and beginning her studies at the School, she has worked with choreographers Kate Alton, Michael Caldwell, Pulga Muchochoma, Yoni Soutchy, and Ido Tadmor, and has performed in folklore festivals around the world. She has participated in workshops with companies and schools such as the Avshalom Pollak Dance Theatre, Batsheva Dance Company, and the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance. Here at the School, faculty have found Yael to be an intelligent, hard-working, and passionate dancer; she is mature, astute, and has excellent observational skills for understanding and embodying movement material.
KURUMI: I started studying ballet when I was three years old in Japan. I continued my training in ballet until I was 18 and, up to that point, my life had pretty much been focused exclusively on dancing. However, because the ballet world is so specific and demanding, I lost faith and just gave up. When that happened, I stopped dancing for about five years… but I felt something was missing. I came to Canada to experience a different culture, have unique experiences, and find new inspiration. I started dreaming of being a dancer again, and shifted my focus to contemporary dance.
YAEL: I started dancing flamenco with Ballet Clásico Español in Shoham, Israel when I was seven years old. At age 13, I started exploring contemporary, Israeli folklore, ballet, hip hop, improvisation, composition, and Graham. Mor Bar-Zakai, my Graham and contemporary teacher, graduated from the School in 2008, and that is how I found out about the program. She taught me valuable lessons about how to use my body in a way that benefits my dancing, rather than trying to live up to any unrealistic expectations I may have had. Later on, after my mandatory army service and a year I spent working at the Israeli Embassy in India, I decided that dancing was my true path. I auditioned for the School in 2018, and moved to Toronto that same year to attend the program.
When asked about their time at the School, both Kurumi and Yael said they have made some great discoveries along the way:
KURUMI: At this point in my journey, I can see how narrow-minded I was when I first started. Coming from a ballet background, I had specific ideas about dance. My time at the School really broadened my horizons, and helped me shape my opinions and my artistic sensibility.
My final year at the School has obviously been affected by the global pandemic; 2020 has been chaotic. Everything we do is changing, with classes moving online and time in studio being limited. It was hard to deal with in the beginning, but I keep trying to learn as much as I can, and I’ve really grown up not only as a dancer, but as a person.
YAEL: During my time at the School, I have learned more about myself than I have in all my years dancing. I learned that I am passionate about exploring artistic expression within different physicalities, while staying true to my own way of moving. At first, I had a hard time letting go of any preconceived ideas I had about many things, from what improvisation should feel like to how much turnout I actually have. Throughout my process, I have been able to leave behind what I thought I was and just let myself be. Among other things, this brought me to accepting my imperfections as my strengths, and trusting my instincts. My process has been very special, and I think I’ve been able to get through it thanks to my wonderful classmates. I am so grateful for the space my classmates and I have been able to create, one that encourages constant individual growth and exploration.
We also asked Kurumi and Yael if they had any advice for prospective students looking to audition in the future:
KURUMI: The School has a great program! We get a chance to try out such a variety of techniques, and we learn what types of things truly interest us. The faculty gives us countless opportunities to face ourselves, so we learn who we really are, and how to express ourselves. We get to meet with and dance for so many choreographers; we can make many important connections and get a taste of what the professional world is going to be like.
I do have one piece of advice for any non-English-speaking international students: study hard! My English is getting better each year, and the faculty does a great job of checking in and making sure I understand them, but I remember how difficult it was in my first year. Learning a language at the same time as learning a discipline is a bit of a challenge!
YAEL: Don’t be afraid to audition for this program just because you don’t have a ballet-based background! The School does a great job at putting everyone on the same page in first year so that the class can be pushed forward as a group. Students also get many different performance opportunities, and I have learned valuable lessons from the different projects I have been part of. The program is very intense, so it is your job to be self-disciplined: remain curious and dedicated to your craft, and keep searching for new ways to grow. These are tools that will carry you forward in whatever you decide to do next.
Both Kurumi and Yael shared some final thoughts on winning the Kathryn Ash Scholarship, and their futures in dance:
KURUMI: Winning the Kathryn Ash Scholarship was an acknowledgement of the hard work I’ve been doing at the School. I’m so grateful for this support; it motivates me to keep going, and ensures that I can finish the program.
These past two years have been the most productive of my life, because I have been working on what I am truly passionate about. It wasn’t always easy, but I discovered so many feelings and met myself through dancing every day. This year is going to be the culmination of my school life, and my preparation for the professional dance world. I am so thrilled to discover what is waiting for me in the future, and I can’t wait to experience more dance! I’m so thankful to all the people that helped me and continue to help me – I am here because of the people around me. Thank you.
YAEL: Winning the Kathryn Ash Scholarship was an amazing honour. I am so grateful to the School for giving me this opportunity. Just by writing my application and reflecting on my time here, it became clear to me that I can be so proud of my path thus far, and all of the growth I have experienced artistically.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult for everyone. As artists, it’s really difficult to make any concrete plans. The cultural sector has been deeply wounded, but I am still determined to keep exploring my artistic expression and passion for performance. Unless an opportunity presents itself in Canada, I plan on moving back to Israel to teach and search for other possibilities. In the future, I would love to get the chance to teach and perform around the world.