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Boys Will Be Boys

Can one of B.C.’s premier dancers make ballet cool for boys?

Step aside kung-fu, take a bow karate. There’s a new martial arts in town - and according to one of the leading lights of B.C.’s dance scene, it’s helped turn bashful boys in to budding ballet stars. Photo of Edmond Kilpatrick photographed by Lynda Hills

“There are just as many boys that are natural dancers as girls, but there are so many stereotypes about boys and dance, and so few dance places that accommodate them and the way they want to move. That means boys have fewer opportunities to be exposed to ballet,” says Edmond Kilpatrick, a veteran of nine seasons with Ballet BC. “Boys can relate to martial arts, and I wanted to draw a parallel between that and the physicality of dance.”

The technique is called Wushu, and this martial art was one of the ideas Kilpatrick incorporated into the Boys Only dance program he runs through Vancouver’s Arts Umbrella. Kilpatrick says teaching kids gives him the chance to share his love of dance with an audience that
might not normally be receptive.

“Everybody has a natural talent for something. Some boys can strap on a pair of skates or play the violin and they know they love it, that it’s their thing. I wanted to find a way for boys to have a taste of dance, to discover if this is their thing.”

Personally, he understands the reluctance. Growing up in Leduc, Alberta - an oil and gas town fifty miles south of Edmonton - Kilpatrick never planned to be a dancer. As a teenager, he set his sights on an acting career.

“At the time, dance lessons were a requirement for theatre programs. I developed my acting skills but it was dance that held my interest.”

In truth, Kilpatrick had more than just an interest. A graduate of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School, he began his career dancing with Les Grands Ballets Canadiens and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. He came to Vancouver and worked for six seasons as an independent modern dancer for many of the city’s top choreographers. Eventually, he found himself with Ballet BC, where he became a favourite with critics and audiences alike, along the way creating the roles of Daved in “Carmina Burana”, Mitch in “A Streetcar Named Desire” and the title role in “Orpheus”.

Although he gave his last performance with Ballet BC in April, 2008, he has hasn’t slowed down. Despite his busy schedule, Kilpatrick has always found time to help share his love of dance with young people. Through workshops across B.C. and his Boys Only program with Arts Umbrella – a Vancouver-based non-profit organization, dedicated to arts education – Kilpatrick continues to share his passion.

“When I look back, even in acting, it was the physicality of theatre that intrigued me the most. Dancing can be cerebral and artistic, but it’s really a physical experience. You've got to love to move. And that’s where my students and I really connect. Dance is movement, and when kids understand that, they’re hooked.”

Arts Umbrella is funded in part by the BC Arts Council, supporting artists and
arts organizations in communities across B.C.