Vidya sets her sights on a professional dance career
Vidya Cannonier-Watson remembers the exact moment she knew she wanted to become a professional dancer.
Her brother Ravi was performing in The Nutcracker and, as she watched him, she became consciously aware of her own potential.
“I realised that I really wanted to make it,” the 15-year-old said. “I remember thinking, ‘I have to go away to ballet school if I really want to get anywhere.’”
The National Dance Foundation of Bermuda is helping her achieve that dream. On Monday she was presented with The Arch Scholarship, established in honour of Madame Ana Roje.
The $7,500 award will go towards Vidya’s studies at Tring Park School for the Performing Arts in Hertfordshire, England.
Vidya, who is entering her fifth year at the school, had unsuccessfully applied for the scholarship before.
Last year she shared a $5,000 bursary from the Chubb Foundation with another dancer. This time around, she could only “really hope” that the Madame Roje award had her name on it.
Aside from the financial assistance it offered, the scholarship was significant because of a family connection.
Madame Roje studied under Nikolai Legat, a premier dancer with the Russian Imperial Ballet and the Mariinsky Ballet.
She later taught at the Legat School of Ballet in London, England, where one of her students was Bermudian Patricia Deane-Gray.
Their relationship led to the Bermuda School of Russian Ballet, which Madame Deane-Gray started in the early 1950s and which “produced some of the best classical dancers on the island”.
It’s where Vidya got her start, with lessons from Coral Waddell and Katina Woodley boosting the “artistic guidance” she received from her mother, Sophia Cannonier, who also studied under Madame Deane-Gray.
“Madame Ana came to Bermuda and she came to a class that my mom was in and she spotted her.
“She told Mrs Gray, ‘She has real talent. You need to look out for that one’,” said Vidya, who has been coached by Madame Deane-Gray for the past six years and also trained at The Orlando Ballet School, The Royal Ballet School and The English National Ballet School.
“And because Mrs Gray had been my teacher for a while it sort of furthered on the legacy – from Legat to Mrs Gray to me and my brother.”
About 1,000 females and 500 males auditioned to join the dance programme at Tring. Those numbers were whittled down by half; Vidya was one of ten accepted.
“Tring is a very expensive school because it's a private school and they offer both really good academic and vocational training which, hopefully, the scholarship will allow me to continue,” she said.
Her hope is to one day join a professional company such as The Royal Ballet, the English National Ballet or “maybe even Paris Opera Ballet”.
Although “it's quite a widespread audition process” she believes she got a great head start with Madame Gray.
“I started with Mrs Gray when I was maybe eight or nine and at that point, I hadn't quite grown yet so my technique wasn't as refined as it is now. But I think as I grew, and as I got stronger, it was much easier to fulfil her expectations of me.
“And it just feels quite special. Because it's not every day that you realise that one of your ballet teacher’s teachers was one of the greatest dancers of their generation.”
Dame Alicia Markova was another unexpected link to Madame Roje, Vidya said.
“She taught Alicia Markova and Alicia Markova, she was a patron of the school that I'm at. The Markova Theatre [at Tring] is named after her. It seems kind of all connected. I didn't realise that she was such a main figure of ballet in that time.”
Although her heart is now set on becoming a professional dancer, the teenager admitted that there had been days when she wasn’t sure it was for her.
At times she wondered whether a career as a Pilates instructor or an aerial artist might suit her better.
“Ballet can be quite [tough]. Sometimes it’s just not going well and you just feel like, ‘Oh, I can't do this today.’
“But, I feel like I'm so far into ballet now; it's too much a part of my life. I couldn’t completely drop it. I like it too much to not do it any more.”
Her advice to young people in Bermuda who are too scared to pursue their dreams on a wider stage is to just go for it.
“When I first went to school I didn't really feel comfortable in that kind of environment because I'd been home-schooled up until then.
“I really think standing out in the dance world is probably the best way to make it but you have to really want it. Don’t wait for someone else,” Vidya said.
“You need to work on it yourself, in the studios every night. Practise. Even if you got it right in class, just do it again.
“Where you're from doesn’t matter. It shouldn't have any effect on whether or not you make it.”
Applications for the National Dance Foundation of Bermuda Fund are available through BermudaScholarships.com. For more information e-mail email@example.com