ARTIST PROFILE: Amanda Paterson

When an arts supporter approached artistic director Amanda Paterson about sponsoring a new production, she created Oakville Ballet, a youth company for classical ballet dancers. 

“We worked together on the production to figure out how we could start to bring in a new audience and educate them about classical ballet,” Paterson explains.

Oakville Ballet's inaugural performances were The Kingdom of the Shades excerpt of La Bayadí¨re, and Paquita ““ Grand Pas Classique. Amanda invited two guest artists from the Hong Kong Ballet Company to join her dancers for the production. 

“Traditional ballets like Paquita give students a chance to learn choreography that was set during the 1800s,” says the artistic director.

As far back as Paterson can remember ballet has been part of her life. “My mother was a dancer and a ballet teacher so of course she could not wait to get me started,” says Paterson. “I was about two-and-a-half when she put me in the ballet studio, sat me down and said that I was starting ballet lessons.”

First Paterson's mother told her she was going to learn how to skip. “I knew how to do that already, so I didn't need classes,” laughs Paterson. “My mother decided this wasn't a good time and started me back when I was about five.”

Paterson went on to become an accomplished dancer who trained at Canada's National Ballet School and performed with National Ballet of Canada, Ballet Nacional de Cuba, and Elizabeth Paterson Dance Company.

After taking over the Oakville school her mother founded, Paterson became artistic director of Oakville School of Classical Ballet and more recently, Oakville Ballet.

Paterson's vision for Oakville Ballet is to provide opportunities for classical ballet dancers to perform in a youth regional company. It's also a preparation towards a professional career, so dancers range from 12 years of age until post-secondary school.

“I would like to have three or four productions per season, but of course funding with the arts is a matter of being able to afford these productions,” she explains. “I would really like that, but it will take time.”

Amanda's annual production of The Nutcracker features dancers from her classical ballet school and Oakville Ballet. She invited two former students that dance in Orlando Ballet and Scotland's Ballet West to be guest artists in this performance. “I hope to continue to invite my former students to dance with Oakville Ballet,” Paterson says. “It's a project that we are building up.”

The Nutcracker runs from Friday, November 25 to Sunday November 27 and Saturday December 3 and Sunday, December 4, with nine performances at Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts.

Dancers also have a guest appearance with Guelph Symphony Orchestra at Guelph's River Run Centre on Sunday December 11, when they are performing the “˜Party Scene' in Act One of The Nutcracker with the orchestra.

Paterson will focus more of her attention on Oakville Ballet's future once The Nutcracker performances have concluded. She aims to make ballet more accessible in Oakville. “With Oakville Ballet, I hope there's no need to go into Toronto to see various companies performing classical ballet, since we would have a local youth ballet company that is performing for audiences,” she says.

Paterson also plans to introduce matinees for students so that there's more exposure to ballet and the arts, with live music for school-aged children. “I would like to encourage that, so that's another thought of mine over the next while,” she says. “Over the years we hope to build up a repertoire that we can rotate and hopefully go on tour!”

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