Ballet instructor Chantelle Norris is taking the bold step to stretch her imagination and creativity and share the results with Nanaimo audiences.
Norris has created Nanaimo Contemporary Ballet, the city’s first youth ballet company dedicated to the neoclassical style.
“I felt it was time to expand on my own personal creativity in a more performance based setting,” said Norris.
She has been teaching ballet at Kirkwood Academy for the past eight years and has taught in Duncan and Mill Bay.
Norris started dancing when she was seven and has danced with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Alberta Ballet Company and the Banff Centre for Performing Arts.
The beauty of ballet has appealled to Norris since she was little.
“I felt that the discipline and the beauty and elegance of ballet is so alluring … In ballet they have to remain focused and committed to the movement and to me that is one of the most joyful things,” said Norris. “You are there in the moment with yourself and the movement.”
Norris said she waited to create the company to gather experience.
The company currently has 23 dancers, ranging from ages 12-16. The maximum age for the company is 21.
Norris chose the neoclassical style because of its increasing popularity.
“A lot of the companies have drawn away from the more classical works and they find that the dancers can be a lot more creative and evolve as artists through work that is more contemporary,” said Norris.
Neoclassical ballet is a 20th-century classical ballet style. It is often associated with the works of George Balanchine.
Norris is focusing on Nanaimo audiences during the first year. She said it is important during the development of the ballet company.
“Nanaimo does not have its own ballet company so I think it would be really nice that the company is specifically targeting the public to come watch these shows and not necessarily just dance parents,” she said.
After establishing the company, the dancers may perform at other Vancouver Island communities.
Norris said she’s taking “baby steps” during the establishment of the company.
“We’re tying to provide a pre-professional atmosphere so it’s not just a recreational company,” said Norris. “The dancers are quite a high calibre. A lot of them have been away to professional schools.”
Each month Norris is bringing in a mentor to work with the dancers.
The ballet company plans to hold its first performance in January.
“For our first season we are going to stick to one well thought out, thought provoking show just to get to know our audience and for them to know us,” said Norris. “Maybe for our second season if things go well we will expand to two shows.”
Norris said the arts community in Nanaimo is amazing. However, she would like ballet to come into the spotlight more.