“I am proud to say that I am part of the alumni of the Port Colborne Dance Academy; at least that was the name of the studio at the time I left in 1997.

Ava and I laugh today about how my dance career began in 1978 at her studio, which at that time was Ava Balogh’s School of Classical Ballet. I would not say we have “fond” memories of our initial encounter as Ava will be the first person to tell you that I cried for my entire first year of dancing. She even spoke to my mother about withdrawing me and re-enrolling me when I was a little older. However, my mother, whom always taught me to finish what I started, even at 3 years of age, told Ava that I was going to finish out the year. So, with my mother’s fingers prints on my shoulders, from pushing me through the door, my dance training with “Miss Ava” began.

I even recall my first time performing on stage in our annual recital. I cried, which was now my“thing”, because I was afraid to go onstage. Then when I was sitting in the audience with my maternal grandmother, which was the only year she saw me dance before she passed away, I cried again because my time on the stage was over for that year and I desperately wanted to dance some more. That was it, I was hooked on this thing called dance!

I received all my foundational training from Ava, and subsequently Donna when she joined forces with Ava. I can say in all honesty I would not be the dancer I am today if it were not for Ava Dalcourt and Donna Moreau. Not only did they offer me professional level training in ballet, jazz and tap, they instilled in me my passion for dance and a work ethic to constantly strive to fine-tune my craft. They were both detail-orientated when in came to our technique but also emphasized the importance of performance quality. After all, dance is a performing art! Such an approach to teaching offered the best foundation training any dancer could ask for!

I was able to closely work with Ava while preparing for my initial teaching examination, which was with the Ballet Division of the Canadian Dance Teacher’s Association, Ontario Branch in 1995. Not only had I learned how to be a proper ballet “student” from Ava, now I was learning how to be a good “teacher”. Ava helped me to develop my keen technical eye and the use of imagery vital to teaching the artistry of ballet. However, she told me one of the major aspects of being a great teacher is to never stop learning. The moment you stop learning as a teacher, and think you know all there is to know, is the time you should stop teaching. I look at both Ava and Donna and they still continue to attend workshops and learn from other teachers.

Another vital tidbit of information they have instilled in me is that in order to be a good teacher, you need to be a good role model to your students. Both Ava and Donna truly are exceptional role models. In addition to continually upgrading their own knowledge, they are still active teachers. They do not sit and coach they stand and actively teach since the visual aspect of teaching is so vital to proper training.

Although I left the studio in 1997 to further my dance training, I never forgot anything that was imparted to me by Ava and Donna. The professional-quality of the foundation training I received from them has not gone unnoticed by anyone I encounter as I continue to dance. In fact, I am often asked where I have trained and people are amazed that it was not at a “professional” school. In my opinion, I DID attend a professional studio.

Upon leaving Ava and Donna’s studio in 1997, I moved to British Columbia to continue my training and post-secondary education. Since then I have attained my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Simon Fraser University (SFU) with a major in (contemporary) dance and minor in Kinesiology. I have also received a Certificate in Health and Fitness from SFU.

I was awarded the top honors of “Pass with Distinction” on my Associate Membership examination with the Cecchetti Branch of the Imperial Society of Teacher’s of Dancing (ISTD) and I currently hold my Associate Diploma status with them. I have also attained my Advanced II level examination through the ISTD, Cecchetti Branch.

In addition, I have attained my full membership with the Ballet and Modern Divisions of the Canadian Dance Teacher’s Association (CDTA), BC Branch. I have written the Affiliate/Student Teacher Program and the requirements for the Associate and Full Membership examinations for the Modern Division. I have also written the Junior Modern Syllabus, which is to be used by the CDTA, BC Branch. I have been appointed modern examiner for the BC Branch of CDTA.

I am currently performing with a local modern company, Collab’Art Creations. I have performed with Off Centre Performance Company and Ballet Du Printemps.

I would not be where I am today if it were not for Ava Dalcourt and Donna Moreau. They are my biggest supporters and the first people I turn to when I need advice regarding the dance realm. I am not sure when it happened, but we have transitioned from the roles of teacher-student to co-teachers and I treasure and respect this new relationship I have with Ava and Donna. They may not realize it, but I still have them securely on the pedestal I placed them on while a student of theirs and in my opinion that is where they will remain. I admire them both for who they are and what they have accomplished. I can only hope that one day I too will have accomplished as much as they have. I am forever grateful for the time and effort they invested in making me the dancer and teacher I am today. I cannot say this enough, I would not be where I am today if it were not for Ava and Donna.

Thank you…for EVERYTHING!!!!

Heather Kendell
BRLS; BFA; AISTD (Assoc. Dip.); Member CDTA (Ballet, Modern)

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