The School of Dance

Merrilee Hodgins A.R.A.D., Artistic Director

Professional Ballet Studies

Season 2021-22

The School of Dance Professional Ballet Programme

Natalie Ogonek, graduate of The School of Dance,
who went on to study at the National Ballet School
and then became a dancer with the
Hamburg Ballet, Hong Kong Ballet, and The Royal Swedish Ballet.

The School of Dance Professional Ballet Programme is a nine-year study programme created for students 8 to 16 years of age. We have developed a curriculum of early ballet training that is balanced between technical growth and creative expression for the youngest of the students; the basic ballet language of The School is the Cecchetti Method. This syllabus is supplemented and enhanced by the professional knowledge of the staff so that our training is current and rigorous allowing the dancers to adapt to the demands of new choreographies or historical repertoire. We are known for our well-trained, well-placed, musical students. The comprehensive curriculum includes ballet, creative movement and music courses, plus history of dance, pointe and repertoire, somatic work, character dance, jazz and contemporary dance as they become appropriate. Special workshops with guest teachers, covering subjects such as particular classical repertoire, body image and nutrition supplement the classroom training. The hours of study vary from level to level during the school year and summer programmes are part of the training plan. There are two theatrical performances each year; we perform in the Theatre of the Canadian Museum of History and the Theatre of the National Arts Centre. Smaller projects take place in the Theatres of Carleton University, the National Gallery of Canada and the 4th Stage of the NAC. Students may also be chosen to work at the NAC with visiting ballet companies or on stage in one of our Arts Education projects. The more senior students also have the opportunity to perform in The School's outreach programmes or in the DanceONTour® projects. Students receive progress reports and a final assessment class, observed by a panel, confirms continuation in the next level. The ballet students graduate to national/international institutions to continue their studies; some move directly to apprenticeship positions. We regularly place our ballet students in the schools of the National Ballet, Les Grands Ballet, Royal Winnipeg, Boston Ballet, Butler University, the School of American Ballet and Joffrey Ballet.

The students are immersed in an atmosphere of professionalism, education, realistic goals and aspirations and they are given guidance and moral support from the teaching staff as they grow and mature. The objective of the many years of concentrated training is to develop a body and a mind capable of executing all aspects of dance vocabulary equally and effectively; intellectually, we focus on developing the interpersonal and self-discipline skills of each young student and we spend considerable time developing their understanding and use of music. We have developed stretch and strength work that helps the students understand proper alignment and safe use of their bodies; we support the students with access to physio-therapy, mental preparedness and holistic information on nutrition and wellness. Students are challenged to find their potential from within, developing life-long work habits that will serve them well in whatever career path they select. Along with the rigorous technical ballet studies, we shine a light on the artistic elements of dance, art, music and the related theatre arts to ensure a broad understanding of the world the students are entering and we work to relate the dance heritage of the past to the contemporary world of today.

Entrance to the Professional Ballet Programme is by audition only. Auditions take place in Ottawa in the spring of each year. Following an audition class, an assessment is completed recording the student's physical suitability, coordination, flexibility, musicality and love of dance. Out-of-province/country candidates must provide a set of particular photographs and a DVD of classroom and/or performance work appropriate to their level. All candidates are requested to attend the summer programme for further assessment before acceptance. Auditions are conducted in English. We also audition candidates throughout the year, off-cycle, upon request. Senior students are welcome to discuss class options with the Artistic Director at any time.


Merrilee Hodgins A.R.A.D.

Artistic Director


Mary Ross Fellow and Examiner, CSC-CICB

Director of Professional Ballet Studies