Dancer Heather Ogden remembers her roots

Heather Ogden, principal dancer at the National Ballet of Canada. - Sian Richards photo

Heather Ogden, principal dancer at the National Ballet of Canada.
— image credit: Sian Richards photo

Heather Ogden trained at Richmond Academy of Dance before joining the National Ballet of Canada in 1998. She's now principal dancer with the National Ballet and feels like an ambassador for the Richmond Academy.

She remembers spending Saturday afternoons in the Richmond studio. After a short ballet class, rehearsals would follow for the rest of the day. That's when she really got to dance—and work on pieces as a group.

"I can't remember thinking there was anything else I would love to do more on a Saturday," Ogden told The Richmond Review.

She also has many great memories from local competitions. They provided a chance to get on stage and learn the art of performing and nerve-control, and were bonding experiences for students.

"It makes me smile to remember those afternoons when we would be exempt from our academic classes to go and dance our hearts out. With our mothers and costumes in tow it was always so much fun. And sometimes we came home with a trophy to top it all off."

Ogden is sorry she isn't able to perform at the anniversary gala—she's preparing for her role in the North American premiere of the ballet Hamlet—but said she sends her love and congratulations. She also shared some thoughts with The Review on the academy's milestone.

"The Richmond Academy of Dance was my second home growing up. I probably took at least 10 ballet classes a week and I loved it. I met so many of my friends through dancing at Richmond Academy, many of whom I am still close with today, 13 years later! I loved that I was able to go to a local dance school and receive first rate professional training that led me to the career of my dreams.

"The directors Annette, Heather and Joe did a great job of making the school a fun place to be. We worked really hard but we also had so many opportunities to have fun performing and they let us take risks and discover ourselves as young dancers. Annette was my first ballet teacher and I remember as a six-year-old thinking she was quite strict, but I thought she was beautiful and was willing to listen to her every advice. Looking back I am so grateful for the solid foundation she gave me for my ballet technique and the sense of discipline and hunger for perfection that she encouraged.

"As I grew older, along with Annette, I worked with many other teachers the school had to offer. Jian Ron Sheng and Bau Zhu Sheng, a lovely couple from Beijing, worked with our class a lot through our teenage years. They really took us into the classical repertoire and taught us how to interpret different roles and express ourselves onstage. Suzanne Ouelette came to the school in my graduating year and I found she really helped me to find a more mature and professional quality, which was great for many of us hoping to transition into a professional career."

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