Rossland dancers earn coveted spots in prestigious ballet school

Andrew Bennett
By Andrew Bennett
December 13th, 2012

Anna Cooper and Hollie Arsenault will attend Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s Professional Division Summer School in July, 2013, having successfully auditioned in Kelowna in October.

Cooper, 12, made the difficult decision to stay in Rossland with her grandparents Josef and Anna Havlik when her parents and sister Natalie moved to Mexico over the summer. Her main reason to stay was to continue to work with Renne Salsiccioli of Renee’s Studio—formerly Kootenay Dance Works. Her family’s home in Mexico, unfortunately, has no ballet studio in the vicinity of an appropriate level.

Cooper is not new to travelling for her love of dance. She’s attended summer programs in Toronto at the National Ballet, and in Calgary at the Alberta Ballet. Her dream is to attend a professional ballet school on a full time basis.

Arsenault, who turns 12 in two weeks, has had her sights set on the Royal Winnipeg Ballet since she was a very young dancer, hoping to follow Salsiccioli’s footsteps. Salsiccioli’s training began with Carole Bonin in Trail before she was invited to attend the Royal Winnipeg Ballet at age 14.

This will be Arsenault’s first experience away from home for an extended period, but she is really looking forward to the opportunity.

Anna and Hollie will join Michaela Skuce, a Rosslander who has been training with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet Professional Division since 2011. Skuce, now 14, auditioned three years ago, attended the summer school, and was invited to attend the full time program at the end.

This is Skuce’s second year away from home, which her mother Michele describes as “a difficult decision for all of us,” but one with rewards as well, including a top scholarship Skuce was awarded in November. “She had to work really hard to get where she is. It’s been an adventure,” her mother said.

Michele attributes the success of so many dancers from this small town to one, central influence: Salsiccioli.

“It’s pretty typical for people to take for granted what’s in their own backyard.  I still don’t think people here really understand how lucky we are to have her,” said Michele, whose older daughter Siobhan also dances with Salsiccioli but plans to be a writer.

Renee’s Studio has purposefully been kept small so that she can carefully adapt the training she offers and monitor the progress of her students. It keeps the quality of instruction very high, Michele said.

“If it were a clothing store, it would be an exclusive boutique, but without the boutique price tag” said Michele, “It’s a rarity as dance studios go, with few comparable studios in Canada. We are extremely fortunate to have her here in our own very small city of Rossland.”

To see the dancers of Renee’s Studio perform, tickets for the year end show—Saturday, May 25 at 6:30 pm—are available at the box office of the Charles Bailey Theatre in Trail.

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