Great dancers dance like there’s nobody watching

Gillian Baker

By Hollie Pratt-Campbell

For Gillian Baker, dance is life.

“It’s kind of like breathing for me,” says the 15-year-old Kingston School of Dance (KSD) student. “I love it, but it’s beyond that, to the point where I need it. I almost don’t even have to think about it because it’s just always there.”

Gillian has been a student at the KSD since she was three years old. These days, she can be found at the studio six days a week practicing a number of styles of dance including ballet, pointe, contemporary, jazz, Latin jazz and repertoire. She notes that she would be there seven days a week, but the school’s artistic director, Ebon Gage, encouraged her to take one day off to rest and catch up on school work.

Of all the styles she’s studying, Gillian notes that Latin jazz is her favourite at the moment.

“It’s more upbeat and it’s just really easy for me to express myself,” she says. “I’m so focused on how much fun it is that there’s not really time to worry about, ‘oh am I doing this right? Am I getting it right? Because usually it turns out fine anyway.’”

The Kingston School of Dance is different from all of the other dance studios in town in that the students don’t participate in competitions; instead, dance is viewed as an art form, to be perfected on one’s own terms.

“It makes it easier in a lot of ways [because you don’t have to impress judges], but it also makes it harder,” says Gillian. “You really need to know what makes you happy and what you can do so that you’re going to be proud of yourself at the end of the day and know that you’ve done your best.”

She explains that she can tell how a performance has gone by how she feels when it’s over.

“I think you’ve nailed it when you can look back on it and you just had fun. It almost doesn’t matter if you made mistakes because probably nobody else is going to notice those mistakes to be as big as you think they are. But if you can walk off the stage and think, ‘wow that was awesome, I did the best that I could and I just had an amazing time,’ that means you’ve [succeeded].”

Gillian is excited for the Kingston School of Dance’s move to the Tett Centre. Indeed, she notes that it’s sort of like coming around full-circle, since the school was located at the Tett when she first joined. For the last few years, it was operating downtown on Princess Street while the Tett renovations were completed, and currently the school can be found at the Harold Harvey Centre in Portsmouth Village before moving permanently back to the Tett in the summer.

 “I remember being pretty sad to move [the first time],” Gillian recalls. “But I find no matter where we go as a studio it’s not really the place that makes the studio, it’s the people in it and the energy that we bring to it. Everyone just wants to be here.”