“I still vividly remember my interview,” says Rebecca Davis (W. Garfield Weston Loran Scholar ’00). “David Crombie asked me why I was so motivated to start a dance company. I told him it was just something that I had to do. And he said, ‘well then, you’ll do it.’ This was the first time someone had affirmed my dream so strongly – and needless to say, it had a huge impact on my confidence and determination.”
Having set her sights on a career in dance at a young age, Rebecca has approached her dream of creating a professional dance company with the methodology and precision you’d expect of someone trained in classical ballet. After graduating from high school in North Vancouver, Rebecca enrolled at the Schulich School of Business at York University, seeking a rigorous program where she could learn the entrepreneurial skills she’d need to launch a successful business. But it was a Loran Scholar summer in Siberia that proved to be a turning point in her dance and arts management education.
“That first summer was incredible. One reason I chose the program in Siberia was because it was one of the few places I could study in Russia that didn’t have a Russian language requirement. I lived with a family and ended up falling in love with the country and its culture. What I particularly loved about Russia was that although the daily life is so difficult, people have a profound respect for the values of friendship, family, history and the arts.”
Once back in North America, Rebecca began Russian language studies and transferred to Temple University in Philadelphia. “Although I had to graduate early, I still remain very connected to my peers at York and other Loran Scholars.” She returned to Russia in the summer of 2002 on an internship with Stage Holding Russia (the producers of the first commercial musical in Russia). Two years later, she won the Business Plan Competition at Temple for her proposal to develop a dance company in Philadelphia. It was an exciting time for Rebecca – she not only won the prestigious annual competition, but also a Fulbright scholarship, which enabled her to spend 10 months in St. Petersburg immersing herself in the structured and rigorous Russian approach to choreography.
Returning to Philadelphia, she started MindLeaps based on her award-winning business plan. MindLeaps launched its first production, Antigone, in March 2006, with choreography by Rebecca, original music by a composer she’d met in Russia and numerous dancers she’d worked with in St. Petersburg. In May 2006, the Company moved into its permanent studio and began its pre-professional training program for youth aged 12 through 18. As part of its commitment to opening up dance to as many people as possible, MindLeaps offered scholarships to students who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford the training programs.
“My passion,” says Rebecca, “is constructing new stories around physical movement. I want to make this art form more accessible to more people–and I think a good way of doing this is to combine literature and social issues or historical events with dance. Dance can communicate important ideas, but it needs to be educational, not preachy. I think it’s time for new constructions in dance, and I know that I can achieve this.”
Most recently, the company is focused on building sustainable youth projects using dance as an educational tool and a method of reconciliation in Rwanda, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Guinea.
Photo credit: Ann Marie Casey