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Sask. ballet teacher becomes 1st in Canada to pass top exam | CBC News

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Sask. ballet teacher becomes 1st in Canada to pass top exam | CBC News

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A 20-year-old ballet teacher in Saskatchewan is believed to be the first person in Canada to pass the country’s top dance exam and prove her moves are en pointe.

Brianna Dash completed the Advanced Solo Award Ballet exam — the highest ballet level offered by the Canadian Dance Teachers’ Association — in March.

The exam is administered in 25 countries, according to the Royal Academy of Dance, which adjudicates it.

But Dash is the first in Canada to complete it, according to Creative Kids, which provides support for young people to participate in the arts.

“I had no idea that nobody [in Canada] had taken [the exam] before, but then when I started working on it more, I found out nobody had,” Dash told CBC’s Saskatoon Morning on Wednesday.

“So I thought it was a huge opportunity for me, and I really pushed myself and it was a great honour.”

Dash says she began preparing for the exam with her instructor of 17 years, Melissa Wallace, last fall, training three to four times per week at The Dance Studio of Swift Current, which Wallace owns.

Wallace had to choreograph and prepare several exercises for the exam, including a variation from Sleeping Beauty, all of which Dash performed entirely in pointe shoes on her tiptoes.

Two women dance.
Dash says it was an honour to push herself to train for the exam with Wallace, who helped her family access funding from Creative Kids to pay for extra lessons and exams as her career progressed. (Creative Kids)

Dash said she did her best to stay present in the difficult exam — her last as a dancer.

“I was obviously very nervous, but it was such a nice happy feeling once I was in the room taking that exam,” she said. 

WATCH| This ballet teacher is the first in Canada to pass a top exam: 

This ballet teacher is the 1st in Canada to pass a top exam

A Saskatchewan ballet dancer has earned one of the highest honours in the dance world. Brianna Dash completed the Advanced Solo Award Ballet exam — the highest ballet level offered by the Canadian Dance Teachers’ Association — in March.

Finding out she had passed was a relief, she said, but it was even more meaningful to share with her own students at the studio soon after.

“They honestly couldn’t believe it. They were so excited for me. I remember showing them pictures from the day of, and they just kept having me go back and look through them all with them and explain everything behind it,” said Dash.

Wallace says Dash’s motivation, “fire to learn” and sense of joy set her apart as both a dancer and a teacher.

“The Advanced Solo Award exam requires incredible stamina, attention to detail, strength, and above all, artistry and performance, which Brianna showcased within her exam,” Wallace said in a March 12 news release from Creative Kids, which is run by non-profit SaskCulture Inc.

Wallace says Dash’s achievements have been supported by funding from Creative Kids, which helped Dash’s family pay for extra lessons, exams and supplies.

Dash says she plans to continue working on her ballet teaching certifications in Swift Current and hopes her successful exam inspires other dancers in Canada to push themselves.

“I just truly love it because it teaches you so many life lessons and it’s your passion,” she said. “You’ve got to keep going with it and I love to inspire younger students and work with them to achieve their own goals.”

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