The School of Dance was founded in 1978 by Merrilee Hodgins and Joyce Shietze. In 1979, Celia Franca, a long-time friend and artistic colleague of both Hodgins and Shietze, joined The School of Dance as Co-Artistic Director. With the addition of the legendary Franca, founder of the National Ballet of Canada and co-founder of the National Ballet School, The School's unwavering standards of excellence crystallized and the stage was set for The School of Dance to grow into the world class arts education institution it is today. The School of Dance Campus is located at 200 Crichton Street, Ottawa, near the residence of the Governor General of Canada.
The School's Mandate is to operate exclusively as a charitable organization for the sole purpose of promoting education in the art of dance in Canada. The School's Mission is to instil a love of the arts by offering and ensuring accessibility to the highest standard of dance training programmes and recreational programmes to all members of the community whether their interests be professional, leisure oriented or purely recreational. Over the last thirty-five years, The School of Dance of Dance has grown in virtually every aspect of its operations; from its professional programming, through its accessibility projects and outreach activities, to its leisure classes for the community. Statistics show that the student population is now gathered from every ward in the City of Ottawa, 67 Ontario communities, as well as all other provinces and 14 countries. The School of Dance is recognized in Ontario as a Private Career College and Seminary of Learning. Merrilee Hodgins directs The School of Dance with an operating budget of over $1M and a growing staff of 3 full time and 82 contract teachers, musicians, choreographers and artists. The School's artistic infrastructure is:
The core of The School, this division begins with the audition-based, professional dance training programmes in ballet and contemporary dance. Graduates from this division are working as teachers, independent dancers and choreographers and/or dancing with companies all around the world, including companies in Toronto, Montréal, Vancouver, Calgary, England, Holland, Sweden, Germany, the United States and China. This category also includes: Boys Only! – a dynamic series of classes in multiple levels; DanceONTour® – our bi-lingual programme of workshops and performances for school children in Ottawa and Eastern Ontario; DragonFly® – our 4 level programme for learners with Down Syndrome; Dances By Youth for Youth – our choreographic mentorship programme combining high-school youth and young professional choreographers and dancers in creation and performance. Our physical culture is enhanced by our Artists in Residence and we currently have 4 choreographers and 4 visual artists in residence; their daily interaction with the students creates a stimulating, exciting atmosphere and offers the students the opportunity to work side by side with practising artists. Our student body is diverse, a rich mixture of people and cultures.
These activities are the means through which we integrate the dance arts into the social fabric of our community. The School provides dance instruction on a leisure basis to over 1,000 children, youth and adults annually and these resident, pay-as-you-go programmes form our back-bone. We also go into the community, collaborating with an array of partners, producing outreach programmes designed to enhance an understanding of and appreciation for dance. These subsidized or free programmes provide physical and recreational programming to persons with accessibility challenges; they educate the community at large about dance as an art form; the extension services provide support to the arts community of Ottawa through mentorships, reduced rental rates, the provision of space for rehearsals, and classes free of charge for professional dancers. The School's MOBILE accessibility programmes, including Connecting with Dance for Parkinson's patients and Dance is BEST in collaboration with Bruyere Continuing Care in the hospitals of Eastern Ontario, Dancing in the Street throughout Ottawa, and the ISO 200 lecture series, are all fine examples of how we contribute to our community.
Flowing from the Mandate, The School produces an average of 45 public performances each season in the theatres of the Canadian Museum of History, the National Arts Centre, the National Gallery of Canada, Carleton University, Shenkman Centre, La Nouvelle Scene, the Studios of Ottawa Dance Directive, The School of Dance and Arts Court.