Canadian Jewish teen wins silver in dance competition

Sara Thompson won the silver medal out of 39 competitors from 15 counties for her lyrical piece entitled “Dear Diary,” about teenage bullying.

By RHONDA SPIVAK
December 20, 2010 03:19
3 minute read.
CANADIAN HIGH SCHOOL student Sara Thompson

Canadian Jewish Dancer 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

WINNIPEG – A 10th-grade student at Manitoba’s Gray Academy of Jewish Education came in second place at the International Dance Organization World Championship of Jazz and Modern Dance in Poland last week.

Sara Thompson won the silver medal out of 39 competitors from 15 counties for her lyrical piece entitled “Dear Diary,” which is about the damaging effect of teenage bullying.

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After dancing in the preliminary round, Thompson was hopeful that she’d make the top 20. In the final round, she was the only Canadian among top eight finalists, with the rest from the US, Slovenia, Norway, Poland, Germany and Italy.

“When they called my name for the silver medal, second only to the [dancer from] the United States, it was like being in a dream. I never expected I would accomplish this,” Thompson said.

“It meant so much to me to perform this solo on the world stage because bullying transcends race and language; it happens to everyone,” she said. “All kids all over the world should know that bullying can happen to anyone and they should never feel alone... This experience has been extremely positive for me.

I have made lifelong friendships and learned that hard work, determination and sacrifice pays off in the end when you are going after a goal.”

Her mother, Val Thompson, the Winnipeg Jewish Review, “You could hear a pin drop in the auditorium. Even though Sara’s words were in English and we were in Poland, her body movements and facial expressions painted an emotional picture of a young teen enduring the pain of bullying. Her message was universal.”

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 trainer at the school, Lindsay Nelko, conceptualized and choreographed the dance. Thompson was one of four Canadian Junior Jazz soloists to represent Canada on the world stage in Poland.

“As a team we the gold medal in the ballet large group category, placed second in the small jazz group category and received the bronze medal in the jazz large group category,” she said.

Some of the lyrics of her “Dear Diary” lyrical 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 said that it was important to her to confront the problem of teenage bullying through the medium of dance.

“I wanted to do something meaningful that would let kids know that bullying can happen to anyone and they shouldn’t feel alone,” she said. “Most of all, they should never be afraid to speak out and tell someone. It is 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 theater, began her competitive solo training at the age of 11. She is a member of the Canadian National Adult Dance Team.

In an earlier interview, Nelko said that working on this creative endeavor 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, “Sara’s personal perspective on this project and her wonderful ability to portray and execute this piece is something special to behold. I feel privileged to have collaborated with Sara, 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.”

Rhonda Spivak is the editor of e-paper www.winnipegjewishreview.com


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