Celebrating Ten Years of In Studio!
By Caroline Dickie
September 15, 2023

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Kate Kernaghan with In Studio Participants. Photo by Karolina Kuras.

The 2023/24 season marks the 10th anniversary of our In Studio programme, which offers dance and fitness classes to the public from The National Ballet of Canada’s studios at The Walter Carsen Centre in Toronto. With a talented faculty, welcoming atmosphere and classes in a range of disciplines and skill levels, In Studio has quickly become an important part of the Toronto dance community and the National Ballet family, with many present and former dancers serving as guest teachers. In honour of this milestone anniversary, we asked In Studio Director Kate Kernaghan to share her vision for the programme. 

Something you share with every student who comes to In Studio, regardless of age or experience, is a love for dance. What was your first experience with dance and why did it hold your interest?

My parents put me in dance classes and to be honest I didn’t love it right away! But I had a wonderful first ballet teacher who was incredibly positive and our classes were always accompanied by a live musician. Gradually I fell in love with the music and the atmosphere. My studio became like a family and I started taking classes in other disciplines, such as modern and jazz. I went on to complete the Teacher Training Program at Canada’s National Ballet School and I’m now a Fletcher Pilates Licensed provider, a CanFit Pro Personal Trainer and a Power Yoga instructor as well.

What was your original vision for In Studio and how has the programme developed over the years?

I started In Studio with Jonathan Renna, who is a former dancer and Guest Principal Artist with the National Ballet. Our hope was to establish a summer programme at The Walter Carsen Centre to make use of the studios while the company was not in season. We drew up a business plan, received the green light and began offering classes to the public. It was such a success that the company asked us to create a full-time programme.

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Kate Kernaghan with In Studio Participants. Photo by Karolina Kuras.

My greatest hope for In Studio is the same today as it was then – to be a welcoming space for people of all backgrounds to discover or indulge a love for dance without feeling intimidated by the name, “The National Ballet of Canada.” I’ve really focused on attracting teachers who are skilled with beginners and who share my feeling that In Studio should be a place for self-discovery and friendship. The classes are fun and the students all have their favourite teachers.

What can students expect when they attend an In Studio class?

I hope they develop a love for dance, movement and music, a sense of bodily awareness and an appreciation for the space we have at the National Ballet and the history attached to it. I want them to continue feeling excited about seeing their favourite dancers or even taking class with them. I want them to feel seen, for the teachers to know their names and offer personal corrections. More than anything, I want them to enjoy every moment they spend here.

What would you say to someone who may feel nervous about attending a class?

Just do it! When you walk into an In Studio class, you will see people just like yourself. Wear whatever makes you feel comfortable and know that everyone feels a bit nervous before taking a new class. Often the first person you see sets the tone for your experience. At In Studio, we’re fortunate to have an amazing staff at the front desk. You are certain to receive a warm welcome when you arrive and that tone carries over to the studio.

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In Studio Participants. Photo by Karolina Kuras.

What do you find most rewarding about In Studio as a teacher and dancer yourself?

It’s really a dream come true. When I was nine or ten years old, I saw the National Ballet perform Swan Lake with Karen Kain and Rex Harrington in the leading roles. I was sitting in the third row and when Karen came out to take her curtain call, she looked right at me. It was such a defining moment for me. I knew that I would do something with ballet and I always wanted to be part of The National Ballet of Canada in some way. Teaching is the ultimate reward. I get to see firsthand how movement and music can lift someone’s energy and spirit, how it changes people’s lives. It’s incredibly powerful.

What does the future hold for In Studio? Do you have immediate aspirations or goals?

I’d like to bring in a more diverse offering of dance styles representing different cultural perspectives. I also love the idea of hosting more workshops and encouraging more company dancers to become involved with the programme after retirement, which would provide a really nice element of continuity within this building. But for now, I plan to do more of the same – at 10 years old, In Studio is flourishing and I’m so grateful!

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Kate Kernaghan with In Studio Participants. Photo by Karolina Kuras.

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