Aspiring ballet dancer earns opportunity towards taking centre stage
By Darren Lum
Life is about the opportunities we have from the risks we take to fulfilling our dreams.
After leaving the Highlands to pursue her passion for ballet a few years ago, Sydney Parish is taking another step to her dreams of becoming a professional ballerina with her entry to the summer intensives program at the American Ballet Theatre School in New York City this summer.
The 15-year-old said she is excited about going to the States and nervous about the opportunity to what she hopes is a step to becoming a professional and joining a ballet company.
Sydney’s audition for the ABT summer intensives program for 12 to 20-year-old dancers from June 27 to July 29 included a recorded session during class at dance school in Toronto, whic h was transmitted via Zoom to the New York school. Her application also included photos, depicting her in different ballet positions.
Sydney’s mother Stacey said her daughter’s hard work is paying off and that she is proud of her daughter’s acceptance to this quality program.
“To see the amount of hard work she has put in and seeing that it’s paying off and that she’s being recognized for [it] – we always thought she was talented – but to see that other people are recognizing it it’s pretty incredible,” she said.
She continues, “For me as a mom, watching Sydney fulfill her dream, whatever it is, whether to be on the main stage, whether to teach, as long as she’s happy and she’s doing what she loves and she’s having fun at it that’s success to me.”
This opportunity is among the highest achievements for Sydney, she said, with a shortlist that includes participating in a summer intensive with the National Ballet School of Canada last year. The opportunity in New York could lead to more.
“It’s a pretty hard summer intensive to get into. So, if you do the summer intensive and they feel you’re a good fit to the program she could be offered into their professional training program in the fall,” her mother said.
Sydney said the difference between the two opportunities is the Canadian one was more school-based while in New York there is a greater focus on possibly joining the company. She adds it’s a dream school when it comes to summer intensives.
Her mother conveyed the exciting news to her daughter after receiving the letter from the ABT school earlier this year after receiving acceptance to the summer intensive session with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School.
“Probably more excited that she got into ABT because that’s where she really wanted to go. She got into two summer intensives this year,” she said. The fact that Sydney’s two favourite ballet dancers Isabella Boylston and James Whiteside also factored in the decision.
The two-week summer intensive classes includes development sessions to improve her dance technique and conclude with a performance, which will be broadcasted live online.
From the school’s website, “the program offers top quality teachers and master guest teachers that are dedicated to the learning process and growth of each individual student. The ABT Summer Intensive focuses on developing well-rounded dancers through exposure to a wide variety of disciplines with an emphasis on classical ballet technique and key elements of ABT’s National Training Curriculum.”
Sydney has danced all her life, starting at three and her drive for perfection is acknowledged as an attribute that has served her well.
Her past teachers based here, Julie Barban of the Heritage Ballet studio and Chyna Schell of the Haliburton Dance Academy said Sydney’s work ethic and commitment were evident early on and at the root of her success.
Barban taught Sydney for close to five years and loved working with her, whether in-person or through Zoom during the pandemic. She said there wasn’t anything that Sydney couldn’t do once she put her mind to it.
“If she didn’t grasp it right away, the next time I’d see her, she’d gotten it cause she’d work on it until she did,” she wrote in an email.
Schell noted the young ballet dancer’s attitude.
“I remember Sydney as a bright and hard working student. Her giggle ringing through the studio and her positive attitude around working hard toward her goals was beyond pleasant to work with. Watch Sydney grow as a dancer and strive to do her best constantly as she stretches toward her potential has been amazing, I couldn’t be more proud of her,” she wrote in an email.
Recently, Sydney spent two years with the Quinte Ballet School of Canada in Belleville and then spent a year at the School of Cadence Ballet in Toronto where she is now. She takes academic courses remotely (with HHSS and through TLDSB) five days a week from 8:30 to noon, with a break before dancing from 1:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Rest has been key to her schedule, she said, and typically goes to sleep at 10 p.m. There was an adjustment, but she said her body has been conditioned to handle the rigours of dance. She also dances on Saturdays for three hours.
What she appreciates about ballet over other dance disciplines is how it is the foundation of all dance and how much she connects with the dance form.
“I just feel joy – when I’m moving – through my body,” she said.
The 5’11” dancer’s favourite ballet is Sleeping Beauty because of its aesthetic qualities and choreography, with fast movements and transitions that flow well from one number to another. The ultimate would be to become a prima ballerina, but she said she would welcome any opportunity to be a professional dancer, whether at centre stage or in the chorus.
The most challenging aspect of ballet is in the attention to detail needed towards executing the proper technique associated to all the ballet movements.
“So a perfect plier … Even though you might not see on stage you need to have that to go on stage,” she said.
The self-admitted shy dancer is soft spoken, but when out on the stage she lets her movements speak for her and the roles that demands it.
“I feel like when I step out on stage I am confident as I need to be for the piece because some pieces are a bit more shy, but it depends on the piece because I went out for my solo and I went out with full confidence that I could do this even though I was a tiny bit injured, but I still went out and did it all and everybody was shocked how confident I was even though I was hurting in certain areas – you couldn’t see it on my face,” she said, referring to the Global World Dance earlier this year in April.
Sydney competed at the Global Dance Open in Porto, Portugal where she finished with a bronze medal, representing her School of Cadence Ballet in the Intermediate Solo Contemporary – Main Division earlier this month.
Sydney has encouraging words for others from the area who have dreams.
“You just have to keep working hard. Even though you might not have all the stuff you need. Even just go home and practice. That’s what I used to do. I used to finish dance at like 9 o’clock every night and stayed up till like 10 to work on the stuff I didn’t finish in class,” she said.