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The life of an aspiring ballet dancer is demanding but worth it, says Collegiate student Ryan Vetter


by Courtney Schwegel (Volunteer)

The Uniter – University of Winnipeg

Photography by Mark Reimer

March 11th 2009




Sometimes one single experience can shape the direction of the rest of our lives. Such is the case with Ryan Vetter, who after seeing Singin’ in the Rain at age five, was changed forever.

“That’s when I knew that I wanted to dance,” Vetter, now 14, said during an interview at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet (RWB) School last week. Deeply inspired by the 1950s film, Vetter enrolled in dance classes at a local studio in his hometown of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

After eight years of dancing recreationally, Vetter was accepted to the RWB School’s Professional Division summer session after auditioning in Minneapolis. Upon completion of the summer session, he was invited into Level 4 of the Professional Division’s integrated ballet and academic program, a seven-level program that trains students to become professional dancers.

This, however, meant leaving his family and his hometown to live at the RWB Residence in Winnipeg. “It took a while for my parents to wrap their heads around… me being away from home,” he said.

Vetter admits to sometimes feeling homesick, though his love for dance is stronger than his occasional longings for home. “Sometimes you just wish you were home and that everything was normal,” he said. “But then you realize how much you love it, and you stop thinking like that.”

Vetter’s busy schedule doesn’t allow him much time to dwell on missing home. Weekdays begin at 8:30 a.m. with three hours of dance classes in the morning. After a lunch break, he heads to school at the University of Winnipeg Collegiate for the afternoon and returns to the RWB after school for roughly one-and-a-half to two hours of evening rehearsals.

Weekends are busy as well. Dance classes run half the day on Saturdays, making Sunday the one full day of rest. However, Vetter said that even on his day off, he doesn’t have a lot of time to relax. “I mostly do homework on Sundays,” he said.

Although ballet is his main priority, he enjoys high school and understands the importance of an academic education. “We always have to focus on school,” he said. “You can’t be a dumb ballet dancer.”

Scott Andrew, a ballet teacher at the RWB, said that juggling school and dance is challenging for many Professional Division students. “It’s quite the balancing act,” said Andrew, who went through the program himself. He explained that dance classes alone demand a lot from the students. “The classes are pretty tough right now both physically on the body…and mentally.”

Demanding though they may be, Andrew said that due to his good work ethic Vetter has made “dramatic improvement” in his dance classes. “I find Ryan to be like a little sponge right now in his ballet education,” he said. “He [wants] to absorb everything he can.”ryanvetter-rwbs-2009-2

Although becoming a professional dancer requires immense sacrifice at a young age, the way Vetter feels when he dances is worth it all. “I just feel so free and alive,” he said. “I just feel like I want to dance forever.”


© 2009 The Uniter – the official student newspaper of the University of Winnipeg



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