Local ballet instructor encourages students to experience RWB

Local instructor says it’s audition season in ballet

Jennifer Davis, school Principal for the Northwest Arkansas Conservatory of Classical Ballet, says the months between January and April are "audition season" in the ballet world.

"Whether that be for students auditioning for summer intensive workshops or for dancers who are looking to get on with a professional company," Davis explains. Summer intensive workshops are "a wonderful training time for students to be able to get involved in a more rigorous dance schedule and to really focus on their training and their art when they're not in school and not focused on academics."

The auditions at Walton Arts Center for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet are for the summer session at their prestigious ballet school.

"Often students who are serious about dance and potentially pursuing a professional career will go to a summer intensive, so that they can just really spend several weeks, several hours a day, just honing their craft, working on their training, working on their technique, working on their artistry," Davis says.

In addition to training and dancing, the students are offered classes and seminars on topics ranging from nutrition to injury prevention to ballet history. Overall the workshops are a deep dive into "what professional life might look like: the rigor of it, the intensity of it," Davis adds.

Having auditions and the master class from Royal Winnipeg Ballet in Northwest Arkansas is a rare opportunity.

"I grew up in a small town, and we never had opportunities like this in our own region or town to go to a major audition. We always had to drive two hours to go to a major city to do something like that," Davis says of the RWB auditions. "I feel like even in Northwest Arkansas, I've been here 20 years, and when I first moved here, they were not offering these kinds of classes and auditions. Usually, you would have to go to Tulsa or Kansas City to have opportunities like that."

She adds that local opportunities have grown over the last 10 years.

"We've had different companies reach out to us to actually come and do some auditions on site here, such as Oklahoma City Ballet and [The Joffrey Ballet] for their summer intensives," she says.

Davis says that she urges her students to take advantage of this opportunity even if they don't see themselves moving to Canada.

"Even if you don't make the cut, even if you don't get accepted, even if you don't have any plans of participating or going there, it's still just such a great opportunity," she says. "Just attending the audition can just be such a wonderful learning experience. You're getting a great class for one. You're getting to experience teaching from somebody that you don't normally experience teaching from and certainly, you're going to glean some insight from them."

Davis says that master classes are an opportunity for students to learn from a"teacher of renown."

"If they're teaching a master class, they generally have a very good experiential base, they've probably had lots of experience dancing professionally, teaching professionally. They've got a lot of wisdom and understanding to impart to a young dancer," she says. Plus the difference in teaching style can be just what a dancer needs to expand their understanding.

"Every teacher explains the information a little bit differently. Sometimes you'll hear the same thing over and over again, and maybe the light bulb won't turn on. But maybe another teacher will say it in a different way and it'll just click for you," she says.

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