Swift Current dancer reaches for perfection with national achievement

By Matthew Liebenberg

A Swift Current dancer has become the first person ever to complete the highest ballet level within the Canadian Dance Teachers’ Association (CDTA).

Brianna Dash successfully passed her Advanced Solo Award Ballet exam on Feb. 9, which was the first time a dancer completed this assessment since it became an official CDTA exam level in 2018.

“It was a great honour to be the first to receive it,” she said. “I worked very hard to get to this point and I honestly couldn’t believe that I was the first one to do it. It’s very rewarding.”

Dance has become an enduring passion for her since a young age. She is 20 years old and this is her 17th year of dancing.

“I found a passion for ballet at a very young age, mostly because it was my escape and my happy place,” she said. “So I kept wanting to continue with it and love the push to always do better. I feel that’s what brought me to this point. I always went with having goals in my mind and I love the feeling after I accomplished something that I kept pushing towards.”

Dash expressed appreciation towards her family for being so supportive over the years and she is also grateful towards dance teacher Melissa Wallace of The Dance Studio of Swift Current.

“It is really exciting to have the first student to do the Advanced Solo Award,” Wallace said. “I’m really hoping that this can help gain some momentum and excitement for the Advanced Solo Award and help promote more dancers and more teachers to work towards achieving this grade. It is definitely difficult and it takes a lot of hours and sweat and hard work, but it’s definitely something you can work towards to achieve.”

She noted that the advanced levels are extremely hard to achieve, whether it is in ballet or any of the other dance styles.

“There’s not a lot of dancers that achieve the high advanced levels and to go beyond those levels,” she said. “Unfortunately, a lot of the times when you get into the advanced grades that tends to be at the same time as you’re finishing high school and there are a lot of dancers who move on to university or start a different career or just have a change of life, and they may not actually be able to finish and achieve the next grade.”

Wallace had been working with Dash on preparation for this exam since last fall and it required a lot of attention to detail.

“This exam has a lot of free exercises that are set by the teacher,” Wallace mentioned. “We got to choreograph several of the exercises in this exam and then she had to learn two variations. One from the Sleeping Beauty and one two-and-a-half-minute long dance that was created by the CDTA specifically for this grade, and the whole exam was done on pointe shoes.”

This advanced exam is the culmination of years of training during which a dancer became familiar with all the details and technical aspects of the dancing style.

“You have to have really strong and really consistent technique to be able to apply even to take this exam,” Wallace said. “So in order to take this, you have to have completed the advanced ballet grade, which is the last grade that usually is danced and you have to achieve that with a high mark.”

A mastery of technique is therefore a prerequisite for a dancer who wants to complete the Advanced Solo Award exam.

“You already have the technique in place from all the years of training and the exams taken before this,” she said. “So in the Advanced Solo Award, the artistry is actually one of the main components that is required. It’s like a performance grade that could not be achieved without very strong, very consistent technique.”

She felt that Dash has certain qualities as a dancer that helped her to be successful and to complete this particular advanced exam.

“Brianna is a very goal-driven person and she’s very motivated,” Wallace said. “She works really hard in class. She’s had 16 years as a student with perfect attendance. She’s very open to feedback and corrections. We’ve had a lot of really hard and gruelling classes, because Brianna’s done a lot of solo classes throughout the years with her ballet and she never gives up. … She just has the right kind of positive attitude and openness to feedback that has allowed her to be able to get to this level.”

Dash felt her preparation for this particular exam was certainly challenging and it required ongoing perseverance.

“The exercises in itself are quite demanding, being this high level,” she said. “So constantly pushing yourself to do better and fixing small corrections that are happening, as well as doing it all with a smile on your face.”

She also shares her passion for dance as an instructor at The Dance Studio. She initially became a class helper at age 13 and gradually began to assist with different classes. She is planning to do licentiate exams during this year, which is a higher level of teaching credential, and this will allow her to teach higher grades in ballet and jazz dances.

“I love being on both sides of things right now,” she said. “It’s a wonderful point to be, because I will get to push myself to be a better dancer and I’m still learning new things to be a better dance educator. I love working with younger dancers and inspiring them to do all the stuff that I work towards.”