Anna Cooper in Winnipeg.

Anna Cooper at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet

A young Rosslander is living her dream and training and dancing with some of the nation's best in Winnipeg.

By Michele Skuce

After auditioning last October 2012 for the summer program, and attending the summer program in July (which is the second step in the audition process for the full time Professional Division program), Rossland’s Anna Cooper was invited  to attend the Royal Winnipeg Ballet Professional Division School.

Anna trained with Renee Salsiccioli at Kootenay Danceworks for several years, and is now 13 and in level three at the RWB professional division. The levels run from one to seven, and correspond with the student’s grade in school.

Academic classes from Grade 9-12 and are held at the Collegiate at the University of Winnipeg.  Anna joins another Rossland student at the RWB, Michaela Skuce, who is now in her third year there and is in level five (Grade 10) at the professional division.

I recently asked Anna a few questions about her experiences there so far, now that she’s had a couple of months to adjust.

“I am really enjoying it here, I am getting very good ballet training and I love it here. It is difficult, but I love the challenge and am learning lots. The biggest adjustment would probably be getting used to a new room, meeting new friends and being away from home.

“I miss home but I am not homesick. Residence is really fun; my roommate is from B.C., too. We have known each other for a while and get along really well. I go to an elementary school; it is from Grade 1-8, so this will be my only year in it.

“We hardly get any homework, so it is nice that we can relax after dance. We have a year-end show in May that the whole professional division is in, we haven’t started on it yet, but I am really excited. My class is doing improv* before the First Steps show, so I am excited about that too.

“We dance about three to four hours a day. We start at 2:45 p.m. and finish at 5 p.m. or 7 p.m., it depends on the day. Winnipeg isn’t my favorite city, but I still like it. I have been to the mall a few times, but that’s all in terms of exploring Winnipeg. It is already really cold here. I hope I am able to stay here as long as I can.”

Many people ask Renee Salsiccioli why she encourages her students to audition for professional schools.

“It’s about refinement and it’s also about following a network,” she said. “The professional dance world is incredibly small and only a very few get the opportunity to dance at this elite level of training.

“There is a path to becoming a professional dancer and there are some key aspects to the training which are very different from what I am able to offer here.  A hockey player wouldn’t expect to be drafted into the NHL without going somewhere else beforehand, and the same is true in the dance world.

The audition itself is a valuable experience. If a student truly wants to become a professional dancer, a high level of training is imperative. Attending a professional school is the first step towards that goal.

“If they have the desire and motivation to train at that elite level, they need to take the opportunity if and when it’s presented.”

Renee attended the RWB professional division as a teen and says:  “I have never had any regrets about my decision to go.”

The students learn a lot of other life skills which will stand them in good stead for life.

Way to go Anna.

* improv is short for improvisation and refers to dance that is just made up on the spot to music and not choreographed.


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