Two successful male ballet dancers, who got their start at Kingston dance studio 5678, have started a scholarship to support and encourage boys to explore the world of ballet. Funds will be raised through a live showcase hosted by the Inner Harbour Collective later this month.
Daniel Robertson-Styles and Bryce Taylor, along with a group of other artists, started the ‘Inner Harbour Collective’ – a group of Kingston-raised artists who come together to celebrate their childhood community, and the incredible city that they grew up in. While none of them still resides in Kingston, this collective is a way for them to stay connected to their first community.
“Last year was the first year that we put together a showcase that we hosted on zoom,” said Roberston-Styles. “It was such a great experience that we decided to keep going with it and have set a date for our second live show which is set to take place on June 27th.”
This showcase will have performances from Bryce Taylor (Dance), Zinta Uptis (Film), Zeke Wilson + Ethan Flanagan “Wilson & Flan” (Music), Roberston-Styles (Ballet), and more. The performance is free to attend. “We encourage as many people to come as possible! We’d love to see everyone there on the Zoom call,” he said.
This year the showcase will also be a fundraiser for the new scholarship Roberston-Styles is founding. Called the ‘Claude Marc Forest Scholarship,’ the money will cover the cost of dance classes for boys in Kingston who are interested in exploring the world of ballet. The scholarship also aims to break the stigma of boys in dance, and create a mentorship program for its recipients.
“This scholarship is named after my first dance teacher/mentor, Claude Marc Forest, who continues to teach at 5678 Dance Studio in Kingston,” Roberston-Styles shared with Kingstonist. “The idea for this scholarship comes from the love and support that I always felt from Claude Marc. He is one of my biggest mentors, and the reason that I pushed to apply for and then attend Canada’s National Ballet School (a move that enabled a career in dance). Without Claude Marc, I would not have been able to prepare physically or mentally to audition for the school. It was a real gift to work with Claude Marc, and it brings a smile to my face thinking about other young boys in Kingston being able to have him as a mentor, as well.”
This sentiment is echoed by Bryce Taylor, a professional dancer and choreographer hailing from Yarker, Ontario. Taylor was also mentored by Claude Marc, and went on to attend the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School.
“My memories of Claude Marc consist of ballet classes filled with challenge, smiles, and encouragement,” Taylor said. “Although I only trained with him a short while, he was able to give me a foundation I could rest a career on. He is a diligent teacher who fills the room with his charisma. No matter who you are or your experience level, you can count on him bringing the best out of you. This scholarship hopes to bring more boys into ballet, and I can think of no better flag bearer for that cause than Claude Marc Forest!”
The collective has also set up a GoFundMe to raise the funds needed to create this scholarship. They hope to raise $1,500 for their first year.
“It generally costs $400 for an hour and half of ballet per week for a term (two terms per year),” Robertson-Styles explained. “Therefore, we have set our first fundraising goal to $1,500 on GoFundMe to support multiple applicants. This is a beginning that we see to be very achievable, and I really look forward to working with people in the community on this goal! Applicants can apply in the scholarship section of the Inner Harbour Collective website.”
With dance being a foundation in life, Roberston-Styles said he can’t imagine life without it. “This scholarship also aims to break the stigma because boys dance, too! I would love to see a world where dance is as easy a choice as hockey or soccer for young boys in our community. If someone has a dream, I say go and get it! The scholarship is open application, so any young males in Kingston can apply for it. We will then review the applications and interview the applicants, and hopefully support as many of them as possible,” he said.
Robertson-Styles is hopeful the scholarship will be in place for the 2021-2022 season, and local young males will have a chance to experience dance, and the supportive community surrounding it, through this initiative.