The Owen Sound Dance Academy was delighted and honoured to have world-renowned dance artist Helen Jones in our studio for a contemporary workshop today. Helen Jones is an internationally recognized dance artist with a long career as a professional dancer and teacher. She is a graduate of Britain’s Royal Ballet School and trained in Contemporary Dance at The London Contemporary Dance Theatre, before moving to New York and joining the Martha Graham Company under the legendary Martha Graham herself, who is recognized by all as the "Mother of Modern Dance". Helen's career has led her to tour and perform around the world. Helen is currently faculty at the School of Toronto Dance Theatre, as well as the Department of Dance at York University. More locally, for twelve years she ran a recreational dance program for children and adults in the municipality of Grey Highlands where she now lives.
Helen taught three levels of workshops today, starting with the youngest class where Academy students age 3-6 explored some basic elements of contemporary dance while learning to approach movement with curiosity and fill the space with movement and energy.
In the intermediate class, students explored some improvisation patterns as well as dynamic travelling combinations that involve energy throughout the body. Then in the advanced class, dancers were introduced to the beginning of a structured Graham technique class as well as some elements and combinations from iconic Graham works such as Diversion of Angels.
We also had another incredible guest come to watch the advanced class. Yves Cousineau, who was one of the first members of the Corps de Ballet when the National Ballet of Canada was formed in the 1950's. Mr. Cousineau began his dance training in his hometown of Montreal, but soon he was invited to join the National Ballet as an apprentice. He later went off to Europe to travel and train in the theatrical arts while continuing his ballet training, and when he returned he soon moved up through the ranks of the National Ballet to become a Principal Dancer and one of the company's first Character Artists. Later, Mr. Cousineau's career took him to join the Department of Theatre at York University, and then the Department of Dance where he eventually became the chair. Mr. Cousineau is now retired, but he still delights in watching dance, and we are very lucky to have had him visit.
It was wonderful to have these two vastly experienced and worldly dance artists in our midst. As a small dance studio in a small rural city, it's important to take these opportunities to learn and grow as dancers and as teachers. The world of dance is vast and magical, and we're just beginning to explore it! The advanced dancers were fortunate to have a long talk with Helen Jones and Yves Cousineau at the end of their workshop, hearing stories of where their dance journeys have taken them, what inspires them, and what they see as the most important aspects of life and work as a dancer in a professional company.
An enormous thank you to Helen Jones for teaching and inspiring our students today, and to Yves Cousineau for taking the time to visit our studio and share your knowledge and experience! And thank you to the dancers who came and participated in this rewarding experience. Let's do it again!