Port Alberni dancer Holden Cole has spent the last two years training at Canada’s National Ballet School in Toronto and travelling around the world to perform.
His next stop? Juilliard.
Holden gained the support of his hometown in 2013, when the community started a fundraiser to help him travel to Poland to join Team Canada’s dance team at the International Dance Organization World Championships. This was the first time, said his father, Rob Cole, that Holden gained the attention of the community outside of the dance world.
“He’s had lots of community support since then,” said Rob.
Holden’s parents noticed his proclivity for performance art at a young age. “I would just be dancing all over the place, performing for people,” Holden said.
His mother tried to take him to a dance class, but he didn’t have an encouraging start.
“I cried at the door for months,” he admitted.
But Holden never stopped performing at home, and at age six he started taking hip-hop classes. By age eight, he was in a performing arts program that included ballet, contemporary and jazz. He attended classes at Stage West School of Performing Arts, and then Elite Dance Academy when it opened at the old Klitsa school site.
“I tricked you into it, and you never looked back,” joked his mother, Tana Cole.
“There was definitely no lacking in his skill levels,” added Rob.
As well as his trip to Poland with Team Canada, Holden has had many opportunities to travel with Canada’s National Ballet School in Toronto. He attended a festival in Saint Petersburg, Russia in November 2016. Last summer he visited Amsterdam to audition for the Netherlands Dance Theatre, where he made it to the final round of auditions.
“He’s been bouncing all around the world,” said Rob.
Holden said that Holland was his favourite place to visit, and he hopes to return to the Netherlands Dance Theatre after graduating.
“That’s the goal right now,” he said. “I want to work at a dance company in Europe.”
Holden is looking to concentrate on contemporary and modern dancing. He has been offered a full-tuition scholarship for four years at the Juilliard School, a famous performing arts conservatory in New York City, after which he will have a Bachelor of Fine Arts.
“It’s my passion,” he emphasized.
Holden participated in a strenuous, multi-round audition for Juilliard that started with 49 students, but this was cut down to seven or eight over the course of a day. Ten of these auditions are held across the country, and at the end of it, 24 young women and men are selected for the program.
Holden is one of 12 male students from across the world who was accepted into Juilliard’s dance program this year.
Holden currently attends an all-boys dance class at the National Ballet School, where he will be graduating this June. Tana said this opportunity was one of the main reasons they agreed to let him attend school in Toronto.
“He’s always been the only boy here,” she said. “We wanted him to have the opportunity to dance with boys his own age. Boys dance differently, train differently.”
Additionally, Holden has been working with his mentor, Joshua Beamish, out of Vancouver, since he was 11 years old.
“They connected right away,” said Rob. “He actually helped prepare him for the auditions at Juilliard.”
Holden is the third of four children. His younger sister, Zaya, is also a dancer, and went to provincials last year. The whole family will be flying out to Toronto for Holden’s graduation in June.
He has a break from school every six to eight weeks, and he usually comes back to help out at Elite Dance Academy in Port Alberni, where it all started.
“Normally I just volunteer,” he said. “If I’m not teaching, I’ll take classes just for fun.”
“I think it’s important for him to give back and mentor the kids,” added Tana. “And to give back to the teachers who helped him get to where he is now.”