Dancer returns to Penticton roots

It wasn’t so long ago that Jennifer Welsman, first soloist of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, could not have imagined herself in front of a class of 10-year-olds teaching a special ballet workshop in Penticton.

Jennifer Welsman

Jennifer Welsman


It wasn’t so long ago that Jennifer Welsman could not have imagined herself in front of a class of 10-year-olds teaching ballet.

“Even as little as five years ago, I would have said absolutely not, it’s not something that I want to do right now,” said the first soloist of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. “I always thought I had so much more to learn.”

But for the last two weeks, she has been doing just that, teaching workshops at the Penticton School of Dance.

“I am at the point where I am thinking I wish I had known that when I was 10 or 12. Just little hints, little insights into dance,” she said.

“It just coincided with the time off from the ballet,” she said. “I am really loving it.”

For Welsman, teaching at the dance school is coming home, in many ways. She grew up in Penticton and even took classes at the same studio before leaving home at age 14 to attend the academy at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet.

“That’s where I started, back when I was seven,” she said. “I had all these butterflies walking up the stairs. I reverted back to my 14-year-old self, before I had left for Winnipeg. It was really funny.”

But teaching the kids has been fulfilling and she said they have made incredible progress in the couple of weeks she spent with them.

“It’s the kids that have the determination and the joy of dancing, because that is what I really love teaching,” she said. “The one thing I really hope to inspire kids when I come home to teach is that it is possible for someone from a small town to become a ballet dancer, or a professional dancer, whether it be tap or jazz or modern.”

Welsman is well-known to the young dancers — besides having danced lead roles in the classical ballets, she has also danced modern roles, like Alice in the production of Wonderland last spring as well as playing The China Doll in the children’s television program, The Glass Castle.

“A lot of the kids I am seeing now have grown up with that,” said Welsman. “That is the first question they ask, ‘Are you China Doll?’”