The School was founded in 1978 by Merrilee Hodgins and Joyce Shietze. In 1979, Celia Franca, a long-time friend and artistic colleague of both Hodgins and Shietze, joined The School as Co-Artistic Director. With the addition of the legendary Franca, founder of the National Ballet of Canada and co-founder of the National Ballet School, The School's unwavering standards of excellence crystallized and the stage was set for The School of Dance to grow into the world class arts education institution it is today. The School of Dance Campus is located at 200 Crichton Street, Ottawa, near the residence of the Governor General of Canada.
The School's Mandate is to operate exclusively as a charitable organization for the sole purpose of promoting education in the art of dance in Canada. The School's Mission is to instil a love of the arts by offering and ensuring accessibility to the highest standard of dance training programmes and recreational programmes to all members of the community whether their interests be professional, leisure oriented or purely recreational. Over the last thirty-five years, The School of Dance has grown in virtually every aspect of its operations; from its professional programming, through its accessibility projects and outreach activities, to its leisure classes for the community. Statistics show that the student population is now gathered from every ward in the City of Ottawa, 67 Ontario communities, as well as all other provinces and 14 countries. The School is recognized in Ontario as a Private Career College and Seminary of Learning.
In 2014, Merrilee Hodgins directs The School with an operating budget of over $1M and a growing staff of 3 full time and 53 contract teachers, musicians, choreographers and artists. The School's artistic infrastructure is:
The Arts Education Programmes
- the audition-based, professional dance training programmes in ballet and contemporary dance. Graduates from this division are working as teachers, independent dancers and choreographers and/or dancing with companies all around the world, including companies in Toronto, Montréal, Vancouver, Calgary, England, Holland, Sweden, the United States and China. An important sub-unit of our arts education work is DanceONTour, a programme which represents The School's commitment to quality arts education for school children in Ottawa and Eastern Ontario. An important component of our physical culture is our Artists in Residence Programme. The School currently has 3 choreographers and 4 visual artists in residence; their interaction with the students creates a stimulating and exciting atmosphere.
Flowing from the Mandate, The School produces an average of 45 public performances each season on the stages of the National Arts Centre, the National Gallery of Canada, the Canadian Museum of History, Carleton University and Arts Court.
The Community Arts Programmes
- the means through which The School of Dance integrates the dance arts into the social fabric of the community. The School provides dance instruction on a leisure basis to over 1,000 children, youth and adults annually and goes out into the community with a variety of outreach programmes which are designed to enhance an understanding of and appreciation for dance. These programmes, which reach 70,000 people each year, provide physical and recreational programming to persons with accessibility challenges; they educate the community at large about dance as an art form; the extension services provide support to the arts community of Ottawa through mentorships, reduced rental rates, the provision of space for rehearsals, and classes free of charge for professional dancers. The School's MOBILE accessibility programmes (including DanceAbility for individuals of mixed-ability, Shall We Dance? in the hospitals of Eastern Ontario and DragonFly Dance for learners with Down syndrome), the ISO 200 lecture series and Boys Only! programmes are all fine examples of how we contribute to our community.