12-year-old dancer to train with Royal Winnipeg Ballet School

Iain Twigg is about to give up a trio of sports, several types of dance and a return to his Barrhaven school this fall — all so the 12-year-old can learn from some of Canada's best ballet instructors.

Iain Twigg is leaving Ottawa to hone skills with some of Canada's top instructors

Iain Twigg is about to enter Grade 7, not in Ottawa, but in Winnipeg, where he's set to train with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School for the next year. (Philippa Twigg)

Iain Twigg is about to give up a trio of sports, several types of dance and a return to his Barrhaven school this fall — all so the 12-year-old can learn from some of Canada's best ballet instructors.

The 12-year-old, who'd been attending Farley Mowat Public School in Barrhaven, will spend the next year taking intensive lessons at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School, the educational arm of Canada's oldest ballet company.

The opportunity is a dream-turned-reality for Twigg, who trained for shorter stints with the school before and even performed with the company's dancers in 2017.

"I remember dancing in the Nutcracker with the [company] and just seeing all the professional dancers and how they were warming up how they danced," Twigg told CBC Radio's In Town and Out Saturday.

"I was like, 'I want to do that someday, and I want to get there as quick as I can.'"

Ottawa's Iain Twigg is leaving home at 12 years old after being accepted to the prestigious school. 9:11

Twigg's parents will accompany the young dancer to Winnipeg this month, where he'll also be taking regular school classes during the mornings. 

But for the most part, the soon-to-be seventh grader is spending the next year flying solo. 

"I'm very excited, not very worried at all," he said. "I'm pretty used to this stuff happening."

An elite program

It won't be an entirely new experience for Twigg, who is also well-versed in tap, jazz and hip-hop and spent the past two summers training at the school.

"I was prepared for a summer program, and it's going to be the same, just a longer time period," Twigg explained.

The ballet school's summer intensive program is like a trial run for its professional division program, which accepts students aged 10 to 18 and runs the length of an academic year.

Twigg will be staying at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet's school residence. The ballet school's professional program accepts students as young as 11. (Philippa Twigg)

Students stay in a residence for the duration of the program, which emphasizes success in the classroom as much as it does discipline in the studio.

Twigg didn't make the cut after the summer program in 2018, but emerged victorious this year. 

"I think he can handle it, for sure," said his mother, Philippa, adding that she and her husband aren't nervous about their son's move — at least not yet. 

"We're kind of shutting that bit off until he disappears," she said. "And then it will probably all catch up with us."

Peers 'just didn't understand'

The opportunity to train professionally with such renowned ballet instructors is particularly special for Twigg: his love for dance hasn't always been embraced by his peers.

"Many people just didn't understand what it was like to be a dancer, and there was a bit of teasing and bullying going on," Twigg said.

The young dancer did perform in a talent show at his school, something he thinks helped his fellow students understand his passion.

Dance was one of the things that I just loved.- Iain Twigg

"Dance was one of the things that I just loved, and it was in me since I was so young," he said.  

His mother agreed that Twigg's pursuit of ballet came with "its ups and downs," but said she's always known her son had the ability to perform professionally. 

"I'm excited to see where this journey goes and really how far he can take his dance training," she said. "I think it's going to be a fantastic experience."


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