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On the Ground

Big Aspirations in Small(ish) Places

Heather Thomson with Ballet Kelowna By Grace Smith
  • Heather Thomson / Photo by TDFoto.ca, courtesy of Ballet Kelowna

Heather Thomson is the newest member of Ballet Kelowna. A recent graduate from the School of Alberta Ballet, she was prevented from participating in the yearly ballet audition circuit due to stress fractures in her shins and lower back. But an opportunity came to her when Simone Orlando, artistic director of Ballet Kelowna, reached out to the school about potential young dancers. In her first season, Thomson has had to learn to be adaptable while working with numerous choreographers, but has also relished the closeness between dancers in a small company.

Where did you grow up dancing?
In Calgary, at the School of Alberta Ballet. I started professional training when I was fifteen. I have done a little bit of contemporary but my main focus was ballet.
 
When did you decide to dance and is there anything else you would like to do?
When I graduated high school I had to decide between dancing or doing what everyone was telling me to do (not dance). I knew I could go to school later but ballet couldn’t wait. In the future, I would like to go into physiotherapy or massage therapy to help other dancers.
 
So far, what have you learned dancing in Ballet Kelowna?
I have learned to have a more open mind. Different choreographers are coming in and I have to be adaptable and willing to try new things. I have also learned how important it is to balance my personal life with my work life, which can be hard to differentiate as an artist.
 
Who inspires you?
My twin sister, Rachel. We grew up dancing together and as twins had to work at being individuals. We were competitive, which motivated us both to work harder. She now dances at the Nevada Ballet Theatre, which is strange because we are apart for the first time but it’s also the first time we get to really be individuals.
 
Can you pinpoint a challenging time during your dancing career?
When I fractured my low back and shins. It was hard to stay inspired and to stick with it, being so injured. It really taught me to be patient and listen to my body, which sounds obvious but is difficult as a dancer. That is something I wish I knew when I was younger. 
 
Read more about Heather in the March/April issue.
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