Two Port Alberni dancers and an instructor have received special awards presented by the Canadian Dance Teachers Association, ballet division.
Dancers Madeline Joseph and Emma Fines each received $250 bursaries from the Maria Lewis Legacy, while ballet instructor Jen Soo received the Pat Cummings legacy award.
Maria Lewis was a Vancouver-born dancer and teacher who had a notable career with the National Ballet of Canada and the Montreal Ballet, and appeared on various television programs. When she returned to Vancouver in 1969, Lewis established the Maria Lewis Ballet Ensemble. She took over Ballet Horizons and established a new company named Pacific Theatre, which eventually reached semi-professional regional status.
In 1985 Lewis’ theatre became known as Ballet British Columbia. This entity continues to produce a high calibre of ballet dancers.
Alison Cowan, ballet chairperson for the Canadian Dancer Teachers Association—B.C. branch, presented Joseph and Fines with their bursaries. The pair have appeared in a number of performances and excelled at dance competitions in their time with Stage West.
Joseph and Fines will perform in The Nutcracker Dec. 4 at the Alberni District Secondary School Theatre.
The pair have performed in this production every year since it began seven years ago; this will be their final performance, as they are graduating in 2022.
The late Pat Cummings established Port Alberni’s first dance school in 1952. She became a member of the Canadian Dance Teachers Association in 1958 and went on to train hundreds of young dancers in her career as a ballet and tap dance teacher.
A number of her students went on to the National Ballet School, and some trained as ballet teachers.
Jen Soo, owner of Stage West School of Performing Arts in Port Alberni, Studio North in Campbell River and the newly opened Studio North in Nanaimo was chosen to receive the Pat Cummings Legacy award because of her dedication and training of countless students on Vancouver Island.
Soo, an accomplished ballet instructor, has choreographed award-winning ballet numbers for countless Vancouver Island dancers. She has collaborated with dance teachers on the Island to create United in Dance, an annual showcase of choreographers sharing their talent in workshops and dance classes designed in a non-competitive manner to promote to essence of dance.
Throughout the challenges of COVID-19 restrictions, Soo kept her dancers engaged and excited about ballet. On Dec. 4 she will bring to Port Alberni (and Campbell River on another date) her fifth annual Nutcracker performance.
Cowan, who happens to be Pat Cummings’ daughter, visited Stage West to present Soo with her award.