What makes dance such a passion for some that, despite the journeys of life and the different roads taken, it remains in the heart of the dancer? Jill Babala shares with us her life and love of dance and where it has taken her, so far.

From the age of seven to the age of 12, Babala trained as a gymnast at the Polarettes Gymnastic Club. Often the club would hire dance teachers to work with the gymnasts and to help choreograph some of the floor routines.

Babala remembers that she always felt that dance was one of the most fun parts of gymnastics; in fact, her favourite discipline in gymnastics was the floor routine. She loved the freedom of movement and the fact that the floor routines were done to music. Babala also remembers being told more than once that she had quite an aptitude for dance and that she should consider taking ballet.

Dance seemed to be a natural transition for her, and because she had been having some trouble with her knees, while training, she signed up for formal dance classes at Northern Lights School of Dance (NLSD) in 1995.

Under the tutelage of Deborah Lemaire, Babala discovered her love of ballet. Lemaire recognized immediately Babala’s competence and flare for dance. She was supportive and encouraging.

Babala loved being in class. Coming from a gymnastic background where she was used to working five to six hours at a time, she always felt ballet class was too short. She would go home after class and continue to practice her ballet for an extra half-hour or so.

Her first dance solo, A Note in My Journal, choreographed by Lemaire, won her an adjudication mark of 98 per cent at the 1998 dance festival in Prince Rupert, B.C. She also danced several solos in ballet pieces such as Waltz of the Flowers (prior to NLSD’s full Nutcracker presentation), Queen of the Wilis in Giselle and Coppelia.

Babala loved performing.

Upon graduating from high school, she moved to Vancouver. Here she attended Gastown Acting Studio. She felt that a theatre school would help with her acting skills. After eight months of a two-year program, the school closed. Babala was not upset. In fact, she recalls that the last performance, her favourite memory of the school, was a movement piece.

This realization brought her back to dance. She began to take jazz and ballet classes at Harbour Dance. During this time, although she loved dancing, she also felt an increasing desire to travel so she combined work with wanderlust by taking a position as hostess for a cruise-ship line.

Babala spent some time in Savannah, Georgia, USA. Along with work, she still felt the need to dance and found a place to take classes. She subsequently spent three years based in Florida. Here, she took classes at the University of Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Babala returned to Whitehorse two years ago. She didn’t stay put, however, and for a short four-month stint found herself working for a cruise-ship line, Motor Yacht Never Enough. She remembers, while off the shores of Italy, being anchored close to a beautiful yacht belonging to the owner of Victoria’s Secret.

It was rumoured that this vessel had a dance studio on it. Babala laughs as she tells of how she would look longingly at this yacht and think to herself, What a perfect lifestyle to be able to sail around the world and dance at sea.

Babala is a true performer at heart and loves to be onstage. She graced the stage of the Frantic Follies as a can can dancer for four years; she danced in the first Varietease show, Varietease: a Burlesque Cabaret and will be in the next show, Varietease: a Burlesque Carnival.

At the age of 27, Babala is now looking to further her dance career. On Tuesday and Thursday mornings she can be found dancing her heart out in the professional-development classes held by SYIDA at Leaping Feats Creative Danceworks studio.

She regrets not having been able to dance more extensively over the past years, but is determined to make dance a priority in her life, once again.

“I love to explore movement using my body as the means of creating,” she explains. “I want to dance wherever I am. I want to travel the world and discover dance from wherever I go.”

You can see the story of Varietease: A Burlesque Cabaret on Page 2.

Dale Cooper covers dance and dancers in the Yukon. If you have an upcoming dance performance, please contact her at [email protected]