Dancer makes leap to ballet school

Mandi Bryce bypasses Alberta audition to go directly to prestigious school.

Mandi Bryce

Mandi Bryce

Mandi Bryce has been accepted into the professional division of the School of Alberta Ballet without even auditioning for the program.

The 13-year-old Maple Ridge dancer received her final acceptance to the school on June 24 and will be starting there in September.

“I was very surprised when I first found out,” said the shy, soft-spoken teen.

“It was unexpected. I knew I wanted to be a professional dancer and thought I would do it when I was older. When I was more ready,” she continued.

Bryce is trained in the classical style of Cecchetti ballet and just returned from an annual summer conference in Winnipeg.

“Usually, the process is you audition, you get accepted for the summer school and that’s pretty big news,” explained Susan Mitchell, director of Maple Ridge Dance Circle and Bryce’s ballet teacher.

Examiners do an audition tour and anywhere between 40 to 100 dancers representing each of the local schools would do an audition class. Out of those, maybe 25 per cent of them would be picked to attend a summer school, and from those, between three to five dancers are picked to attend the school.

However, Bryce has been singled out to go directly into the full-time ballet program.

Right now, Bryce trains 15 to 20 hours per week at Maple Ridge Dance Circle, with only five of those hours in ballet.

Come September, her school days will consist strictly of ballet training from 8-11 a.m., school work from noon until 5 p.m., with more ballet after school.

Mitchell says she will just eat it up.

“Next is, will she have the stamina for it? I think she does,” said Mitchell.

Under the direction of artistic director Edmund Stripe, the program is a full-time dance and academic program for students in grades 7 to 12 that provides them with the skills to launch a professional career. It is the official training centre of the Alberta Ballet Company.

The Alberta Ballet Company is one of only a handful of prestigious dance schools in Canada, including the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Canada’s National Ballet School and Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal.

Byrce’s achievement is rare, so much so that Mitchell estimates only two other dancers in history have made the same leap.

But Mitchell is not surprised.

“She’s very much a natural. She is an extremely incredible acrobat. She’s kind of good at everything she does,” said the teacher.

Bryce has been dancing since she was five years old. At six, she started ballet under the guidance of Mitchell.

“She has that inner charisma and musicality that very few people have,” Mitchell said of her long-time student.

She is also tiny, a natural advantage for a dancer because when she is on pointe she will not be taller than her partner and her partner is also able to lift her easily.

Bryce hopes to eventually be able to tour with the company once she finishes high school.

A highlight would be to perform in her favourite ballet, Coppélia, the love story about a life-sized dancing doll that is so life-like a village youth named Franz becomes infatuated with it to the detriment of his true love, Swanhilda.

“I love the classical style of it and the story line,” said Bryce.

“She takes direction very well and doesn’t ever play diva. She is just a lovely girl works hard at school. An above average student,” her teacher continued.

“She has everything. She just has the whole package.”

Pub night

Mitchell is holding a fundraising pub night for the talented dancer on Aug. 19 at the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 88, at 12101 – 224th Street in Maple Ridge. Doors open at 6 p.m. and children will be welcome until after dinner, or 7:30 p.m., when they will be brought to the studio across the street by the teenagers from the dance school for a movie night. Tickets are $15 for children and $20 for adults  There will be live music, a toonie toss, a 50/50, an auction, a children’s art auction and a wine draw.

To reserve tickets or to donate items for auction, call the dance studio at 604-463-0922.