Young dance students from NWT visit London area for professional theatre experience

From left to right, Jocelyn Bourassa, 12, Arianna Laboucan, 14, and Haley Manuel, 15, visit the Grand Theatre to see ONCE. Supplied Photo.

It’s been a whirlwind trip of musical theatre, dance, and city life for three young students from a remote community in the Northwest Territories.

Nicole Denomy, a dance teacher in Fort Good Hope, and her senior dance students Jocelyn Bourassa, 12, Arianna Laboucan, 14, and Haley Manuel, 15, arrived in London on Monday night.

“They’re going to be looking at post-secondary options in the near future,” said Denomy, who left London six years ago for a teaching job in Fort Good Hope’s kindergarten to Grade 12 school.

“This is a great way to expose them to opportunities that are out there for them, after they finish high school.”

From left to right, Haley Manuel, 15, Arianna Laboucan, 14, and Jocelyn Bourassa, 12. Supplied photo.

The girls headed to Stratford on Wednesday to take in Guys and Dolls for their first professional theatre show.

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“It was really, really amazing,” said Laboucan, who hopes to pursue her love of dance when she plans for post-secondary school.

She described the people acting, and multiple people on the stage all dancing at the same time.

“I’ve never seen that before.”

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Bourassa and Manuel were feeling shy, standing inside the foyer of the Grand Theatre in London on Thursday night before a 7:30 performance of Once. But Laboucan chatted about the kind of dance she enjoys most.

“My favourite kind of dance is lyrical,” she said.

“That’s what I do for most of my solos. But then last year I’ve done jazz, which was a challenge because I’m not used to doing jazz.”

Jocelyn Bourassa, 12, Arianna Laboucan, 14, and Haley Manuel, 15, and their dance teacher Nicole Denomy. Liny Lamberink/AM980

Their nearly week-long excursion includes plans to see Dream Girls in Toronto on Friday, mixed with enjoying some of the amenities that don’t exist in Fort Good Hope, like checking out the city’s malls, going to hair salons, and eating out at restaurants.

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“It’s really busy, compared to back at home,” said Laboucan.

Home is made up of between 500 and 600 people, the Chief T’Selehye school, and just two stores: the Northern store, and the Fort Good Hope Co-op. It’s on the east bank of the MacKenzie River in the Northwest Territories, and can only be accessed by plane.

READ MORE: London gets a sneak peek of upcoming High School Project production of ‘Evita’

When Denomy first arrived, she started a dance team that resonated with girls in the community. It has since grown to include a junior team, a senior team, and a pre-ballerina team.

And when she pitched the idea of bringing the girls for an experience of professional musical theatre, the small community rallied behind the cause. They raised $1,800 within three days on a GoFundMe page launched in September, the town pitched in $6,000, and a variety of community fundraisers brought them to a total of about $12,000.

“It’s very expensive to travel from the Northwest Territories,” Denomy explained. The cost of their flights alone fell somewhere between $8,000 and $9,000.

But the price is worth it, Denomy said.

“Especially with the theatre and the drama — if that’s something that they choose to pursue — they’ll have a better idea of the limits, or what they can do, beyond what we’re doing already in the school.”


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