Ballet for everyone

As a 10-year-old child growing up in Montreal, Mary Falconer fell in love with ballet when a neighbourhood school began offering Saturday morning classes.

Her teachers were part of a ballet association that sent instructors to schools and community halls to teach children in their own neighbourhoods. It was a philosophy that stuck with Falconer, whose passion for ballet progressed into a career and a lifelong study of ballet.

When Falconer arrived in Lethbridge 30 years ago as a young Canadian Ballet Association certified teacher, she says she didn't feel the need to have her own studio.

Mary Falconer
Long-time teacher Mary Falconer believes ballet isn't just for prima ballerinas.

Instead, Falconer, who has studied under the Canadian Ballet Association; The National Ballet School; Royal Winnipeg; Stanford University; and many international teachers; established herself in the community by approaching local schools without ballet programs.

In 1993, she established the first ballet program at the University of Lethbridge, offering programming for children, youth and adults. Almost 20 years later, there are now 330 students enrolled in classes each year taught by Falconer and two other teachers.

Classical ballet is an art form that continues to charm dancers and audiences alike. "I think it still holds that mystic place of beauty and grace," says Falconer. "Some people dance for the physical component, others feel a connection between the movement and the music, or like performing."

But for all its charm, most students don't intend to become professional dancers or ballet teachers. Nevertheless, all students can gain a life-long appreciation of the art form, greater self-esteem and body awareness. Falconer's goal is to help students get the most from the art form.

"I never need perfection – but I need their best," she says.

After many decades, Falconer has never lost her passion for teaching.

"When I'm teaching, I'm in another world – the world of my students," she says.