Professional classes and training open up new opportunities

The Calgary dance scene is ripe with professional studios that offer training to individuals till the age of 18, yet there is very little being offered to adults.

Many dancers, who are at an advanced level, are often left without professional training because Calgary has very few companies that offer classes for adults outside recreation or beginners dance classes.

Choreographer and professional dancer, Corinne Vessey, opened Ember Dance Company to provide opportunities for advanced dancers to continue their training and development without having to commit to a full-time dance career.

“I started the company because the dance community is quite rich in Calgary and has a lot of talented individuals and passionate artists,” said Vessey.

“There are not a lot of venues for dancers who have completed their training at their studio, I wanted to fill that gap and give these dancers an opportunity to train and perform at a professional level.”

While Ember Dance offers professional development for those who work or go to school full time, some dancers would rather spend all their time in training rather than work a nine to five job.

Madison Walsh said she quit her company job because she prefers dance more than corporate Calgary.

“In corporate Calgary, I think they expect that that’s your only life, where as dance is my only life and my job is just something that supplements my income,” said Walsh.

Starting for the left, Madison Walsh, Paige Jonason, Vanessa Paglione, Hayley Jonason, Lisa Shiells, Melissa Muis, Sarah Burgis, rehearsing before Ember Dance Company’s premier show “In Transit” back in May.

Photo by Hannah Cawsey
Walsh joined Ember Dance Company a year ago after being approached by Vessey to audition. Due to the nature of the company, Walsh said Ember Dance sounded like an amazing experience, which was rare for adult dancers.

“As an adult dancer, there aren’t a lot of opportunities for performance and companies that will develop you as a performer,” said Walsh.

Walsh isn’t the only one to jump on the opportunity provided by Ember Dance.

Raymond Johnson-Brown works in musical theatre and hip hop, wanted to further himself as a dancer when he saw a posting for Ember Dance.

“I’ve been dancing a number of years and I wanted somewhere where the bar was set high and the training would be the best you can get, and that’s what set me off into Ember,” said Johnson-Brown.

Johnson-Brown commits his life to dance; outside Ember Dance he is involved with shows all over Calgary, including the Legally Blonde Musical. As well, he teaches dance classes and believes in the beauty of dance, whether you’re a dancer or not.

“It’s the feeling that you get from the art. The inspiration. When I leave a good show, I feel inspired and the passion that creativity that transcends into my life,” said Johnson-Brown.

Ember Dance Company has 14 resident dancers as well guest dancers and teachers.

Vessey maintains that the group has been a success, just finishing up with Ember Dance’s premier show “In Transit” which received standing ovations for both nights it ran.

Vessey has a broad vision for Ember Dance and will be premiering a new piece called Behind the Wall in June, which will be part of the show called “Invisible.” The show aims to raise awareness and money for women’s shelters and the problems that women face in our society such as abuse, over sexualisation and human trafficking.

“We have a busy couple of months ahead of us,” said Vessey.

hcawsey@cjournal.ca