We had the chance to catch up with YDP alumni Claire Dobbie. She was a student of the program for fourteen years, and completed each level of the program, from ages 3 to 17. Claire is a great listener; a bright, clear-minded, highly creative young woman, who revels in diving into her creativity and in sharing her abundant gifts with others. Michelle Silagy, director of the YDP program, says “when teaching her as a young child, I was struck by Claire’s curiosity – her focus, and by her growing wit, which she threaded into all of her classes. She always had a gift for composing dances out of playful impulses.  She was always ready:  ready to invent with her form, ready to move with everyone while putting her whole self into the task at hand, joyfully so.”

Here is our conversation with Claire about her time as a YDP student:

What are your fondest memories of your classes?

A young Claire Dobbie in class (second from the right)

“My fondest memories of the Young Dancers’ Program are when I was able to be creative in my movement. Getting a routine was never automatic for me, and synchronizing would take me weeks. As satisfying as it was to finally get a routine, I always thrived when I had the ability to create a story, communicating that imagery through my own choreography and then working individually with teachers and other students to perfect my routine.”

How has the YDP influenced your path after secondary school?

“YDP has partially influenced my post-secondary journey. I am pursuing a degree in the fine arts, in a variety of media, and my time in the YDP heavily impacts the way I look at the human body. Bodies are the primary focus in my work, and I often reflect on the energy of the movement that I’ve learned in dance.” SEE ARTWORK BELOW ⬇️

Do you experience any connections between your time at YDP and your current work/studies?

“My time at YDP has connected to my current life in multiple respects. In regards to my studies, dance has impacted my post-secondary art. On a day to day basis, I remind myself to reconnect with my body and to stretch and move to sound around me when I’m alone. While I was working with kids as a dance teacher this past summer, I feel as though my time volunteering at the School gave me a better perspective. I have also attended more contemporary performances with my family than I think I would have considered if it had not been for the program.”

You have been very productive in your studies in and creation of visual art. How has dance influenced what you are making now in your visual art, if at all?

“Dance has impacted the way I see movement and growth, and I feel as though every piece I make has an aspect of what I learned growing up with YDP.” 

Do you have any advice or insights to share for prospective students/those who may want to dance in the Young Dancers’ Program — but have yet to do so?

“This program allowed me to make mistakes, learn, and push myself to find my limits. My advice to future students coming to YDP would be to not be afraid when you don’t quite get a routine or if you fall a couple of times. Every teacher I had throughout all my years wanted to help me learn and grow as a dancer.” 

Is there anything else you would like us to know about your time with us at The Young Dancers’ Program?

“The Young Dancers’ Program gave me a lot of confidence in all aspects of my life, with learning how to be comfortable making mistakes, and asking for help when I need it. I think this comes with the very strong and supportive community that everyone feels when they enter the building.”

Thank you Michelle and Claire for sharing your thoughts and stories!

Artwork by Claire Dobbie | left: milieu, right: eternal