Katie Bonnell recently graduated from the RWB School Professional Division. She shares her thoughts about what it means to be a graduate of the program.
Katie Bonnell Photo: Bruce Monk
I was a late starter to the world of professional ballet training. I arrived at RWB School three years ago not knowing what to expect, but hoping that my dreams of becoming a professional ballet dancer would be realized. My body had a hard time keeping up with the expectations of an advanced level student. During my first two years at the school, various injuries held me back from reaching my full potential. Had I been at a different school, I suspect I might have been tempted to just give up, but the support and understanding of the artistic staff, as well as the unwavering encouragement of my fellow students, enabled me to stay focused while I recovered and regained strength.
Without a doubt, level 7 has been my “breakthrough year” and in many ways a gift, having faced adversity from the start of my training here. It has been more of a challenge than I could have possibly imagined, but with a stronger body and renewed confidence, I was able to thrive.
The challenges I faced began as early as September when we started preparing for Concert Hour Ballet; a show that we put together and toured through various schools in Winnipeg and surrounding cities. It seemed that the number of rehearsals I had to attend tripled overnight. At the same time, we also started rehearsing for First Steps- our annual choreography competition. I was lucky enough to experience all aspects of this program, dancing in two pieces as well as choreographing one of my own. Next were our graduating exams. With one exam out of the way in December, there were “only” five left to endure. All of the level 7 students felt the pressure of these exams, myself included, as our ability to graduate rested heavily on our results. Finally, In Concert arrived. I was very fortunate to have been casted in several pieces. The opportunity to work with Joysanne Sidimus and Laura Graham as they set Scotch Symphony and Hula from The Second Detail respectively, are both experiences that I shall never forget.
So few people can say that they graduated from the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School. My class is made up of six girls and four boys. If we say that on average, ten students graduate each year, that means only about 400 people have received an RWB School diploma since the creation of the Professional Division 40 years ago. I am so proud to include myself in that small group of people. Putting “blood, sweat, and tears” into your work sounds dramatic, but it is the truth when it comes to ballet. We are constantly tested by physical pain, emotional pain, extreme fatigue, frustration, and injury. Receiving my diploma gave me an immense feeling of pride, gratitude, and satisfaction, knowing that all of my hard work had paid off.