York helps Westview students dance with Ballet Creole professionals

For two months, 25 Grade 10, 11 and 12 students from Westview Centennial Secondary School have been participating in a unique arts project with Ballet Creole, one of Canada’s most recognizable cultural dance companies, through an intitiative of York’s Faculty of Education.

Ballet Creole burst on the scene in 1990 and comprises both a professional ensemble of dancers and musicians and a School of Performing Arts. It focuses on the traditional and contemporary performing arts of the Caribbean and Africa, while working to establish a dynamic new artistic tradition in Canada of diverse dance and music traditions.

Right: Westview Centennial Secondary School students performing at Brookview Middle School through an initiative of York’s Faculty of Education

The arts project the students participated in is linked to the Faculty of Education’s School & Community Engaged Education (SCEE) Initiative as well as Destination Arts, a joint venture of the Faculties of Education and Fine Arts that combines professional development with arts-based programming for children and youth. It was made possible through the generosity of ArtsSmarts who provided a grant to Prologue to the Performing Arts, a not-for-profit arts education organization which connects young people with performing arts.

The students, under the direction of Ballet Creole creator and artistic director Patrick Parson, were introduced to challenging choreography. Parson, a native Trinidad and Tobago, is a dancer and musician who draws much of his inspiration from the vibrant multicultural community that makes up the Caribbean. Tanis Engesser-Chung, the dance teacher at Westview, worked alongside Parson. Their many hours of work with the students paid off.

The students performed alongside professional dancers from Ballet Creole in the cafetorium at Westview for their peers and teachers as well as students from many of the elementary schools connected to the SCEE.

“The whole afternoon was wonderful. During the pre-performance warm-up, I loved watching the Brookview [Middle School] students watching the Westview students who were, in turn, watching the professional dancers,” said Kathy Lundy, coordinator of Destination Arts at York, who was intricately involved in the implementation of the project.

“Everyone was inspired by the challenge to create a performance that would make an impact. It was a thrill for all of us to see the teacher and the artists inspiring youth to be the very best that they can be.”