Loving every step Pursuing his passion, far from home
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Oliver Sinex, 12, is like any other boy in Winnipeg. He attends school during the week and enjoys sleeping in on the weekend. The only difference is he’s training to become a professional ballet dancer and lives far from home.
Oliver is a student in the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School’s Professional Division, and lives on the school’s downtown campus, surrounded by other students with similar goals.
He attends regular school from 8:30 a.m. to 1:50 p.m. before catching a ride back to the RWB to begin his first dance lesson of the day.
After that, there’s a second lesson and sometimes a third.
At 6 p.m., he eats a quick dinner in the campus cafeteria, does his homework in the students’ lounge and calls his parents in Calgary. He then packs his lunch for the next day, followed by a stretching session in the dance studio before heading to bed at 10 p.m.
His dream of becoming a professional ballet dancer took form when he was only six years old. He discovered he liked ballet by accident.
“All of the girls (at an after-school program) always went to Alberta Ballet afterward and I wanted to go too,” he says. “I tried quite a few sports and I wasn’t great at most of them, so I thought I’d give ballet a shot.”
He was the only boy in the first ballet class he took, but he immediately knew he wanted to attend more. Being the only boy was a pattern that would continue for the next three years in his dance education.
“I would enjoy having some other boys (in my class), but I’m used to it by now,” he says.
His role models are legendary Russian-American dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov and current RWB principal dancer Yue Shi.
Until last year, he lived in Calgary with his parents — Brad and Katherine Sinex — where he trained at the Alberta Ballet and Hattori/Williamson School of Ballet in the recreational division.
He danced two to four times a week and was about to change to a more intensive ballet program before being accepted into the RWB’s professional program.
In addition to talking on the phone every night, his parents visit as often as they can.
“I miss having them around… but I enjoy being here and dancing every day,” Oliver says.
The RWB school is an intensive program, with classes every day except Sunday.
On Saturdays, the students are allowed to sleep in a bit, but are in the studio by 9 a.m. for another dance lesson, followed by classes in wellness and music theory. They get afternoons off; Oliver often likes to spend his free time at The Forks.
Oliver has five more years until he reaches Level 7, where he will graduate to the Anna McCowan-Johnson Aspirant Program, a full-time post-secondary program in the professional division.
He will be 17 by then and one step closer to fulfilling his dream.
After freelancing from abroad and in Toronto for most of her career, Jessica Lee moved to Winnipeg from Toronto in 2021 to join the Free Press.
Updated on Tuesday, March 7, 2023 6:53 AM CST: Corrects reference to Anna McCowan-Johnson Aspirant Program