Last Sunday I made my way to Toronto’s West End in search of the new location of the Pia Bouman School of Ballet and Creative Movement, in order to get an insider’s glimpse of rehearsals for the school’s return to live performance with The Nutcracker. In a long, low, industrial building near Lansdowne and Bloor, I opened a door into a world of ballet: girls (and some boys) of all ages in tights and leotards, sweatshirts and leg warmers, waiting to rehearse, groups of parents intent on creating scenery or sewing and fitting costumes and, in the main studio, students and adult guests rehearsing the early scenes of Act One. As a fight director, I often work with professional dancers, but there is something incredibly moving about being in the midst of young dancers at work—particularly when they are as quietly and happily intent as this group.
Not being a “West Ender,” I knew of the Pia Bouman School but had never attended a performance or understood its importance to the community. Then, when I was looking to see which Nutcracker productions there might be in Toronto this year—other than the luscious James Kudelka version performed each Christmas by the National Ballet of Canada—a friend mentioned that she was involved with the Bouman School’s production and, in fact, was going to be joining the cast this year as “the Grandmother.” Tedde Moore, Dora Award-winning actor, teacher, and coach (who had grown up in the theatre as daughter of Mavor Moore, and granddaughter of Dora Mavor Moore), it turns out, had been involved with the school from the time her daughters were tiny, and her stories made me realize that the Pia Bouman School must be one of the best kept secrets in Toronto for those outside its immediate neighbourhood.
Tedde met Pia in the mid-1970s when Pia was hired to teach creative movement at one of Toronto’s first Montessori nursery schools, which Tedde’s children attended. In Tedde’s words, they “met, clicked, and have been good friends ever since.”