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Five Minutes With...

Goh Ballet

Our Discover Dance! series is back with Goh Ballet, streaming online June 3 – 17. We sat down (virtually!) with Associate Director Tanya Phelps to discuss the academy, their program for the performance and how they’ve adapted during the pandemic.

Tell us about Goh Ballet Academy
Goh Ballet Academy was established by National Ballet of China’s Choo Chiat and Lin Yee Goh in 1978. Goh Ballet was created with a desire to create a ballet academy in Vancouver, Canada that focused on training technical and artistic excellence, and celebrated cultural awareness in the dance community.

Mr Goh had a vision of curating a performance group that could be cultural ambassadors and bring dance to communities internationally. In 1979, he formed the Goh Ballet Youth Company (GBYC). Over 35 years later, this performance group serves as an artistic bridge to aspiring young dancers locally and internationally to transition from students to professionals. The Youth Company has toured throughout the world, all over Asia, Europe and North America. The graduates continue their professional careers in world-renowned ballet companies. In 1987, Goh Ballet pioneered the first half-day academic program to allow students the opportunity to continue school studies and professional training simultaneously.

The Academy provides young dancers a wide-ranging repertoire of classical and contemporary ballet, jazz, character and Chinese dance. Goh Ballet has presented full-length productions and segments of classical favourites such as Don Quixote, Sleeping Beauty, Coppelia, Giselle, and the critically acclaimed annual production of The Nutcracker; all of which have been staged by internationally acclaimed guest artists.

Under the direction of Prima Ballerina Chan Hon Goh since 2010, former Principal Dancer of the National Ballet of Canada, the Academy continues its legacy of training generations of dancers who receive international praise and accolades.

How have you adapted your classes and performances during the pandemic?
It has been such a challenging time and we are so grateful to have the support of such a wonderful community. This past year, we have had to navigate through uncharted waters. However, it has been an amazing growing period where you have had to be adaptable, innovative and resilient. When we first went into the pandemic, all we could think about was our dancers. At that time, they had no school as everything shut down before changing to online. Within a week of the initial lockdown, we had created an eLearning program. This program offered weekly live streaming classes, eLearning videos for every level, and online private tutorials. It was so important to us to provide community access to their teachers and what they love doing the most – dance. Fortunately, we were back in studio by summer 2020. Our next challenge was our beloved Nutcracker. Since 2009, Ms Chan Hon Goh has produced Vancouver’s very own The Nutcracker. It is such a tradition for the city and incorporates over 200 local and international performers. The thought of not being able to share the holiday tradition with our community was heartbreaking. We were fortunate to be able collaborate with an LA film director, Lukas Dong. Together with Ms Goh’s vision and wonderful community support we created The Nutcracker: Beyond the Stage experience with an original short film, Fallen Prince. This story integrated the tradition of the Nutcracker with the current global situation to share the story of a young dancer and the struggles they were facing, while spotlighting the power and relevance dance and arts are for each and every one of us.

Tell us about the work you’ll be sharing in your Discover Dance! stream.
We are so excited to be a part of Discover Dance! We will be showcasing two group numbers from our Coppelia Spring Showcase performance; Dawn and the Finale. Both these dances have iconic pieces of music, beautiful costumes, and lively dancing.

We are also debuting for the first time Unknown Projections. This is a contemporary ballet piece created for our Youth Company. This powerful creation reflects the conflict and uncertainty many youth are facing. This piece was choreographed by Reid Cuming, former dancer with the Scapino Ballet Rotterdam in the Netherlands and currently Goh Ballet faculty member.

We will also be featuring three award-winning solo performances in Classical Ballet, Contemporary & Chinese Dance. We are so proud of our dancers representing Canada, continuing to receive the highest accolades and winning at numerous International Dance Competitions throughout this challenging past year.

What might people be surprised to know about Goh Ballet?
Goh Ballet is such an intricate Academy that offers a variety of incredible opportunities for dancers to truly embrace their passion and develop the skills and confidence to embody excellence throughout their life. This past year, we launched our Diversity Scholarship. Through the Goh Ballet Canada Society in collaboration with Canadian retailer Reitmans, this new scholarship stream is the start of initiatives to foster diversity and inclusivity, providing promising students who identify with the under-represented populations in the world of ballet a way to access resources needed to realize their dreams. The selection process took place during Chan Hon Goh’s 2021 Canadian Masterclass Series and the scholarships were awarded on Thursday April 29, 2021 in conjunction with our Together, we Dance International Dance Day video. The Diversity Scholarship was awarded to dancers across Canada for their unwavering courage, passion, tenacity, and strength in their pursuit to become limitless as dancers.

What is your next project?
We are busily preparing to film our Virtual Gala Spring Showcase at the end of May. We will be presenting adaptations of two iconic ballets; Coppelia and La Boutique Fantasque. For the first, we will be creating our Spring Showcase performances as an interactive online experience, showcasing our Youth Company, Senior and Junior dancers as they perform on the digital stage. Tickets are available for purchasing and proceeds will go directly towards supporting students in need of financial assistance with scholarships to enable them to continue in their dedicated pursuit of a professional dance career. We invite you to join us virtually on June 18, 19 & 20, 2021. You can find more information here.

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The Dance Centre presents the Discover Dance! series
Goh Ballet
Streaming on Demand: Thursday June 3, 2021 | 12 noon PDT – Thursday June 17, 2021 | 12 noon PDT
Tickets: $0/$10/$20 sliding scale (pay-what-you-can)

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Photos: Courtesy of the World Ballet Competition, David Cooper