Pia Bouman School for Ballet & Creative Movement

Posted by Erica Lefaive, December 11, 2015
Pia Bouman

Pia Bouman founded her school for “Ballet and Creative Movement” in Parkdale in 1979, and it has since become an institution for children and lovers of dance in Toronto. As a not-for-profit, charitable organization, the Pia Bouman School exists with a mandate to “make dance available to all who wish to pursue it: this is the guiding principle which breathes through the school.” Adults, children, and everyone in between have the opportunity to learn to dance in an environment that nurtures creativity, exploration, and an understanding of one’s own movement. There’s a reason why generations of students exist in Pia’s school with parents, who had once worn tutus themselves, bringing their children to have the same experiences. Besides an upheld mandate and the accessibility of the programs, the school does not differ much from any other dance school: teachers are fully trained and highly qualified, accompanists are accomplished pianists playing on real pianos, and productions are put together with a high level of professionalism, giving students the opportunity not only to dance, but also to see the back-end workings of producing a show.

Pia Bouman

Stepping into the Pia Bouman School, it was completely silent. A wide, open, and bright room with soaring windows and small moments of communal space. Comfortable couches and long tables welcomed many sitters and vibrant conversation. Memories stuck to the walls with photos and programmes from many Nutcrackers ago, stage props and tutus littered the countertops – all loving creations of talented volunteers.

Pia Bouman
Pia Bouman

Just as Pia has built the school’s loving network from the ground-up, she’s also built its home from the ground-up. After acquiring the space on Noble St. in 2003, Pia embarked upon a yearlong and almost-million dollar labour-of-love. With the help of architect, Philip Beesley and many, many willing volunteers, Pia created a space that accommodated and encouraged the growth of the community that she had cultivated. From the buzzing public spaces to walled-in studios that opened up into sprawling spaces for dance, each area was purposefully thought-out and carefully constructed. “Every wall you see, we built. This was an empty, industrial space. It was a sweatshop. Women sat at sewing machines and it was labour, labour, labour. We renovated from 2003-2004 and put in radiant floors; built all the walls.”

Pia Bouman

Pia with architect, Philip Beesley

Pia Bouman

Installing the radiant floors.

Every wall serves a purpose beyond its structural one supporting schedules, displaying photographs, acknowledging donors and sharing local artists’ work. We moved from barre-lined studio to barre-lined studio, taking in the exposed bricks and windows that added warmth and greenery in spite of the chill outside. The well-loved pianos and an in-house, tutu-loving cat, Frank, were just a tiny part of what made Pia’s school exude a true sincerity that made me want to pick up where my inner five-year-old ballerina left off.

Pia Bouman

Meet Frank, the tutu-loving feline

Pia Bouman

Of course, a ballet school just wouldn’t be a ballet school without an annual performance of The Nutcracker. December 17th-20th, Pia Bouman’s talented students hit the stage at Lismer Hall for the 30th annual performance of a cherished holiday tradition with Clara and the O.G. Nutcracker fending off the Mouse King for another year. Don’t miss these amazing performances that support Pia’s longstanding school.

Pia Bouman

Interest piqued? Read on about the Pia Bouman School and The 30th Annual Performance of The Nutcracker!

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