WINNIPEG — Fourteen-year-old Gray Academy of Jewish Education student Sara Thompson has won first place overall in the junior soloist category of the Canadian National Dance Competition for her lyrical piece entitled “Dear Diary,” which is about the damaging effect of teenage bullying.
As a result of her victory at the competition last month, Thompson, who was also awarded an elite gold medal, has been chosen to represent Canada as one of only three soloists in the junior division at the International Dance Organization (IDO) Jazz Championships in Poland in December 2010.
In addition to her other notable achievements, Thompson also placed first in the ballet, jazz and lyrical solo division in the junior category.
When asked what her reaction was on hearing she won the competition, Thompson replied, “When I heard my name called, it was like I was in a dream. I was so surprised and happy. There were so many accomplished dancers, so to be named as the first place overall was overwhelming to me. I didn’t expect that.”
Thompson, who has been dancing at the Shelley Shearer School of Dance since she was only two years old, composed words about the painful effects of teenage bullying, recorded them and then performed her story through the medium of dance.
Thompson’s dance teacher, Lindsay Nelko, conceptualized and choreographed the original dance, which Thompson performed.
The lyrics to the dance read “Do you know how it feels/ To want to talk to someone/ But deep down you know they want nothing to do with you?”
Thompson told The CJN that it was important to her to confront the problem of teen bullying: “I wanted to do something meaningful that would let kids know that bullying can happen to anyone, and they shouldn’t feel alone. Most of all, they should never be afraid to speak out and tell someone. It’s so important that young people feel good about themselves, because each person has something unique and special to offer.”
Thompson, who trains in ballet, jazz, hip hop, lyrical and musical theatre, began her competitive solo training at age 11.
Nelko said that working on this creative endeavuor with Thompson was a “unique opportunity” to raise awareness about the damaging effects of bullying.
“Sara wrote a powerful story that I used as the basis for the dance. It was decided that spoken word alone would have a greater impact than any music or song would for this concept. The effect of the solo is that of peering into the soul and mind of a girl who has been bullied. The dance enabled us to highlight the emotional impact, and we could see it resonating with everyone in the audience.”
Nelko added: “As hundreds of people watched the performance, you could hear a pin drop. Sara’s personal perspective on this project and her wonderful ability to portray and execute this piece is something special to behold… and I hope the story resonates with students of all ages and opens their eyes to the effects of bullying. Our hope is to empower students to speak up and unite together against this devastating form of abuse.”
Thompson said she is very excited to go to Poland to represent Canada. “It’s an incredible honour… I have never been to Poland before so I am very excited to see the country that my grandmother’s ancestors are from.”