Living: Shall We Dance? . or Paint? . or Sing?

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by Gilda Spitz

Do you love the cha-cha? Do you draw? Play piano? How wonderful to have a talent for something you love!
No matter what form of art you want to study, many types of lessons – for yourself, or perhaps for a talented child – are available in the Greater Toronto Area.

Art schools
If you’re a budding artist, you can find many types of art lessons in Toronto. Here are just two of many choices.

Ontario College of Art and Design
The most important aspect of studying art is that students can “do work that is meaningful and that they love,” says Jan Sage, Director of Admission and Recruitment at the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD).
OCAD provides a strong program for high school graduates. Students can earn a Bachelor of Design, studying subjects such as industrial design, graphic design, and illustration, or a Bachelor of Fine Arts, in fields such as photography, drawing, painting, and sculpture.
Students are accepted based on their academic history and their portfolio, which must include 15 pieces of work in a variety of media. While studying art, students also learn “to think on their feet and to meet a deadline,” says Sage.
Costs are comparable to university tuition at about $4,800, plus up to $2,000 for materials. For students who are Canadian citizens or landed immigrants, financial help may be available through the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP). To learn whether you qualify, go to

Al Green Sculpture Studio School
The Al Green Sculpture Studio School offers its students a very different type of art experience. They provide a studio where adult students, both beginners and professionals, can learn to sculpt with materials such as plaster, clay, and molds. Students can use the studio facilities up to six days a week, at their own pace, with access to qualified instructors in one-on-one sessions. “It’s a studio with technical support,” says Melanie Chikofsky, Managing Director.
Costs range from $195 for a one-month session, to $1,500 for a full year.
According to Chikofsky, their students “have a desire for something they want to pursue,” and the Al Green Sculpture Studio School “will help them realize their sculpture dreams.”

Television shows such as Dancing With the Stars have renewed public interest in dance. For details on just two of the many dance schools in the Toronto area, read on.

Canada’s National Ballet School
Many little girls dream of becoming beautiful ballerinas. For the talented ones, their dreams may come true.
According to The Dancing Times, Canada’s National Ballet School is “one of the leading schools of the world. The attention given to every individual is unsurpassed.”
The National Ballet School is a full-time school for ballet students in grades six to 12, providing both dance instruction and academic classes based on the requirements of the Ontario Ministry of Education.
Tuition costs depend on the age of the student, his or her location (living in residence or off-site), and his or her citizenship status (Canadian citizen, landed immigrant, or foreign).
The National Ballet School also provides part-time lessons for children after school and on weekends. Adult classes, four nights per week, are available as well, and are “extremely popular,” adds Pamela Rice, Communications Officer. For tuition information for all programs, check the school’s web site.
So, how realistic are a little girl’s dreams of becoming a ballerina? According to Rice, approximately 80 percent of the graduates of the full-time program go on to professional careers in the field of ballet.

Arabesque Dance
For a very different type of dance experience, how about belly dancing?

At Arabesque Dance, students learn the Egyptian style of belly dancing, an art form that dates back 3,000 years. Classes in belly dancing “attract a broad spectrum of people, from ages 18 to 75,” says Melody Bogin, Events Coordinator. “It’s fun, graceful, and sensual, and provides cardiovascular and aerobic benefits.”

After the first lesson, which is free, subsequent lessons cost $10 to $16 per lesson, depending on the package chosen. Students usually attend classes twice a week.

In addition to providing instruction, Arabesque Dance also has a dance company that puts on shows accompanied by an authentic Arabic orchestra. “It’s one of the few professional Middle Eastern dance companies in Canada, and the only one with an orchestra,” Bogin explains.

The Royal Conservatory of Music is the most high-profile music instruction provider in Canada. According to its website, the goal of the Royal Conservatory of Music is “to inspire a love of the arts; to motivate the discovery and the joy of creativity and expression; and to create a growing community of dedicated supporters of the arts and education for all Canadians.”
Their students include children, teens, and adults of all ages. They offer music lessons for voice, all the traditional instruments, and few unusual ones, such as Chinese instruments and “urban” music.

Costs vary widely. Check the web site listed in the sidebar for more information.

Public Schools with Special Arts Programs
In addition to the wide variety of classes described in this article, some instruction in art, dance, and music is available free of charge through the school boards of Toronto, York Region, and elsewhere in the Greater Toronto Area.
The school boards provide several special programs for gifted children, where they can study the arts more seriously, along with a regular school curriculum.

Students must perform an audition to be accepted in these schools.

Younger children may attend Claude Watson School for the Arts in Toronto, or Baythorn Public School in York Region. High school students can find specialized arts programs in Earl Haig Secondary School in Toronto, or the Arts York program in Unionville High School in York Region. For more information on arts schools in your area, consult your local school board.

Is it a hobby or a career?
Do you plan to make art, dance, or music your life’s work? Or is it a hobby that you love to do in your spare time?
Cassandra Luftspring, a recent graduate of the Arts York program at Unionville High School, is a gifted pianist, singer, and composer. A first-year music student at Queen’s University, Cassie plans to become a professional musician. She had many academic interests throughout high school, but she has always been “most passionate about music,” she says. “Any musician must be a jack-of-all-trades,” she adds, explaining that she may find work in the future as a music teacher, conductor, or accompanist, or even as a composer of film scores.
Adam Spitz, a graduate of the same program, was a gifted trombone player but chose a different academic route – mathematics at the University of Waterloo. He enjoys his career as a computer programmer, but looks back with fondness on his high school experience with music. “I learned many things as a musician that helped later in life,” Spitz says. “I learned to think on my feet, and to be comfortable in front of people. It’s valuable to know that, when I’m on the spot, I can do whatever I need to do.”

To find contact information for the schools in this article, check this list. Remember, there are many other schools in the GTA, for both children and adults – check the Yellow pages, the internet, or your friends and neighbours.

Ontario College of Art and Design

Al Green Sculpture Studio School

National Ballet School

Arabesque Dance

Royal Conservatory of Music

Public Schools with Special Arts Programs
Toronto School Board – Specialized Arts Schools

Unionville High School (grades 9 to 12)

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