Meet Heather Dunn, one of the newest additions to HCA’s Dance Department!  After undergoing intensive training with Canada’s National Ballet School and the English National Ballet School as well as performing with internationally-celebrated companies, Heather brings her wealth of professional experience to Hamilton Conservatory for the Arts – teaching our most senior level ballet dancers as well as our adult students. We spoke to Heather about her background, her teaching philosophy, and why dance education is important

How did you get started in dance, and what has been your professional journey?

My parents placed me in ballet lessons when I was three years old to give me something to do. Little did they know I would later travel the world with ballet as my profession. As a kid I danced many different genres and even performed in Vitek’s production of The Nutcracker, but I only narrowed my focus on classical ballet when I joined Canada’s National Ballet School (NBS) in Toronto. For five years I trained intensively at the school and in my last two years I was able to attend ballet summer schools in Cannes, France and London, England. After experiencing the ballet culture in England, I made it a goal to train there after graduating from NBS. I auditioned for a spot at the English National Ballet School’s three year training program and was ecstatic when not only I was accepted but also because of my level of ballet, I only had to do the last two years. I learned a lot about the ballet world there and about how I could fit in it. I even got the opportunity to dance with the English National ballet while I was still training at the school. In the final year at ENB I went to many auditions –  what felt like hundreds – for ballet companies around Europe. I had my fair share of “no’s” and was lucky enough to have a few “yeses” too! I decided to accept a contract with the Scottish Ballet for their production of Sleeping Beauty. The following year I spent the summer dancing with the Tivoli Ballet Theatre in Copenhagen, Denmark and the winter back in Scotland with the Scottish Ballet. I decided to join Tivoli Ballet Theatre on a more permanent basis and had the pleasure to dance with them for three years with the addition of dancing with the Deutsche Oper Berlin, the Royal Danish Ballet and international galas in the off seasons. Being exposed to so many cultures, companies, artists, and choreographers gave me an incredible amount of knowledge and experience and ultimately gave me the tools to become a better artist. Which led me to accepting a permanent contract with The Royal Danish Ballet in Copenhagen, one of the oldest ballet companies in the world. It was there where I felt I truly fulfilled my dreams of being a professional ballerina. After ten years dancing professionally in Europe I decided to hang up my pointe shoes and move back home to Canada in with hopes to pass on and share my knowledge and love for dance with others.

What is the most memorable experience in your professional career so far?

It is very difficult for me to pick the most memorable moment in my career as I’ve been lucky enough to have had many incredible moments on and off the stage. However, I will never forget the first time I danced the grand pas de deux as the sugarplum fairy in the ballet The Nutcracker with my fiancé Carlos Martin Garcia. It was amazing to share the stage with him while dancing a role I only dreamed about dancing as a child.

What’s your teaching philosophy and approach?

My goal as a teacher is to inspire my students to express themselves through the art of ballet using a professional level of technique. Ballet can be such a freeing and liberating art form when given the right tools and techniques. I hope to pass on all the knowledge I have gained from my professional experiences onto generations young and old, allowing them to work hard and enjoy the process.

Why is dance and dance education vital in today’s society?

Dance and dance education has been and forever will be extremely relevant and important to the growth and development of society. Not only does dance keep the human body in a healthy physical state it has also been proven to help and prolong an active mental state as well. Dance education teaches discipline, and good work ethic as well as opening ones mind to the knowledge of the many genres of art and culture. I believe dance teaches us to keep an open heart and mind and never stop learning. I truly think dance will forever be not only relevant but necessary for the development of society.

When you’re not dancing, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

When I’m not dancing I try to spend my spare time creating memories with my family and friends. Dancing has always taken up most of my time so when I have time to share with my loved ones, I cherish every second.


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