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By Peg McCarthy
The Independent
Photographs by Peg McCarthy
Sep 02, 2009 – 03:07 PM

 Joel Taylor, 11, National Ballet School 2009

COBOURG — Home away from home is how one young dancer feels about his acceptance into Toronto’s National Ballet School.

Joel Taylor, 11, of Cobourg, has just finished his second summer school with the National after being asked back, and this time, it was the successful completion of what felt like a month-long audition.

He and his mother, Jane Taylor, found out two weeks ago Joel had been accepted for the full-time program, starting Sept. 7. It means he will live in Toronto and attend the school for 11 months, and come home on Saturdays, after dance class.

“The kids are really encouraged to spend as much time as possible with their families, once school is done,” said Ms. Taylor. “School is school, and not their home.”

“(The camp) was fun,” added Joel.Three local dancers have been chosen to attend the National Ballet of Canada's summer school - AJ Mintha, Brook Hadwen and Joel Taylor 2007

Students danced nearly four hours a day, and then did regular kid stuff in the city. Living in Toronto for a month was different, he said. It was noisier and busier, but in general, pretty OK, he said.

He was homesick a couple of times, but not nearly as much as the year before. Ms. Taylor said that’s because he’s in a class of boy dancers, kids with similar interests. In Cobourg, his dance peers are girls, and the connection is different. Joel said he made a lot more friends at the dance school than at home.

During the regular school year at the National, students have a fairly long day of dance (ballet, modern and character studies, with an emphasis on technique) and academic studies, with a homework hour and some free time in the evening. They are assessed every two years, to make sure they’re keeping up with the academic side of their education. Most kids stay in residence, and boys often get their own rooms because there are fewer of them.

Joel is keeping his fingers crossed for his own space, and also that he gets a chance to dance in the Nutcracker, the National’s Christmas staple. Each year, a handful of different students are chosen, as it means their Christmas family time is limited.

Although he’s been dancing for six years, it isn’t his only passion. Joel is also interested in the technical side of stage production, and his favourite gift last Christmas was a stage light that he uses for home plays. He said he would like to be a movie or theatre director, once his dancing career is over, and his sister Abbey, 14, agrees he is bossy enough to fill that role.

“I can’t help it that I’m good at it,” Joel laughed.

“There’s no doubt he’s headed for the artistic side,” agreed Ms. Taylor. “And the National understands artistic kids.”

“My parents have seen a drastic personality change in Joel. He’s so much happier and outgoing, so much more confident.

“I’m definitely having a hard time knowing that he’s leaving soon, but to see him there in class – I’ve never seen him like that, joking with friends and so happy.”


© Copyright 2009 The Independent

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