Leafs Dreams Arts Scholarship Recipient
From 2003 - 2011, the Ontario Arts Foundation partnered with Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE) on the Leafs Dreams Arts Scholarship Program. The Program provided scholarships in the arts to students who have a special ability in the arts, but not the resources to pursue that interest. Over the course of the Program, 201 students received scholarships totalling over $1,000,000 and attended arts instruction programs all over Toronto.
Dash Grundy is a Leafs Dreams Arts Scholarship recipient now in his final year of the Professional Ballet Program at Canada’s National Ballet School.
Dash, when did you start with Canada's National Ballet School?
This is my 7th year as a full time student. I was a student associate for one year, which was grade 5. I first started to dance through a program with the Canadian Children’s Dance Theatre, who recommended that I apply to the ballet school.
How has your time with Canada's National Ballet School helped you to know that you wanted a career as a professional dancer?
In mid-grade 6, I could see how much my class mates loved to dance and wanted to work hard. I had the opportunity to perform in the Nutcracker suite with the National Ballet. For 5 years I played different roles in the Nutcracker and so could experience firsthand dancing on stage before an audience.
Was receiving the Leafs Dreams Arts Scholarship important to you?
Without the scholarship, I could not attend the school. Ballet is a costly passion to follow. I was a day student and went home every day. There are so many expenses - lessons, tuition fees, shoes, uniforms, and for many kids residency. Dance is a full time lifestyle requiring hours of daily practice, lessons, rehearsal. The scholarship allowed me to keep working hard to learn and improve my skills. 72% of the students here receive some form of financial assistance. The Leafs Dreams Arts Scholarship was really important to me.
Has attending the school helped you achieve your objectives as a dancer?
Yes I think it has. I’ve had access to world class training and developed a strong work ethic. With this experience, I feel I know what I can do and where to use my training with a dance company. At the National Ballet School, I’ve had access to nutrition/lifestyle training, which is really important for a dancer as I can still physically grow. I’ve learned several styles of dance while here. You have access to global teachers who are the best in the world. You learn to work together as a group of dancers ( boy’s classes are small – 4/5 when I started, now up to 10 )
What challenges do you see young artists facing today, particularly in dance?
There are many options for a dancer – classical, Broadway, modern. As you learn, you find out where your strengths are, and what your greatest passion is. It is a hard physical life, last year I had an injury and couldn’t perform for a few months. It was important to have access to the right physiotherapy to recover. You have to be attentive to the whole person – your passion, your ability, how you look after yourself.
What advice would you offer to a boy or girl wanting to dance?
Be passionate about what you want. You won’t become a strong dancer without that passion, desire to learn and work ethic. Be in love with it – it is hard work and you must be focused.
You are graduating this year - what is next for Dash's career?
I was really fortunate to participate in a dance exchange program. I was able to go to New York for a two week program with the Ellison Ballet where a highlight was meeting Mikhail Baryshnikov. I hope to attend a post-secondary program, probably in Germany. In Germany, you can work for a small company, and at the end of the program you receive a university degree, which is great to work towards while pursuing a professional dance career. The next few years are when our dancing opportunities are greatest. My goal is to be a classical ballet dancer.
One last question - what is your favourite ballet?
I'd have to say - Sleeping Beauty.
Dash front row centre receiving a Leafs Dreams Arts Scholarship diploma from John Ferguson Jr,
General Manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs (2007).
Wuchien Michael Than
Persistence and Passion: A Donor's Story
The Wuchien Michael Than Foundation Fund was established by Michael Than in partnership with the Ontario Arts Foundation in 2013. Funding began in 2013 and contributions continue to grow the fund and support a granting program. Michael Than created the Fund to help create opportunities for the creation, development of Asian-Canadian theatre and to develop new works by Asian-Canadian playwrights.