By Lauren Jelicic
Ryerson’s Nadia Potts takes time out to remember her days at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York. She has made a career and a life of dance. As the year comes to a close, she looks forward to a summer of travel and relaxation.
With summer fast approaching, Nadia Potts will be taking some time off to enjoy the important things in her life — family, travel and nature.
Potts, Ryerson’s director of dance, will be spending parts of her summer vacationing through Tennessee’s famous Smoky Mountains, and in the Magdalen Islands. But before she flees the great north, Potts has two more weeks of classes left to teach.
Potts has an extensive dance repertoire. She became intrigued by dance when she was seven years old, and began lessons with professional dance instructor Betty Oliphant when she was 12.
“The first moment I saw someone dance, I loved it. It was magical, like a fairytale world,” said Potts. But she didn’t think about it as a possible career until one of her dance teachers wrote on her report card that she would excel in it.
“My parents left it up to me,” she said of her choice to pursue dancing as a career. “And I decided, ‘here goes, I’m going to go for it.'”
Her career began after six years of lessons, when she joined the National Ballet of Canada. During her 20 years with the company, the routines she performed were intensive and stressful. Potts dealt with criticism from people she worked with, and she said the pressure was hard to handle.
“It’s a stressful career where you’re being judged a lot. You’re only as good as your last performance,” she said. “But it’s exciting to be able to perform, tour and travel.”
With the National Ballet, Potts toured the world including Germany, England, Bulgaria and, one of her most memorable, New York.
“I always remember the Metropolitan Opera House in New York where I danced with [world famous dancer] Rudolph Nureyev. I only had 20 minutes of rehearsals with him and everything went perfectly,” she said. “Something was in the air that night, and it was as close as I can remember to realizing my dreams. It’s one thing to know your dream, but it is another to realize it.”
Potts’ position at Ryerson has given her the opportunity to see both sides of the spectrum. She was first hired as a part-time teacher but was then hired as a full-time employee. She was later promoted to her current position as director, which she describes as whole other side of life.
“It’s more fulfilling. A performance is singular, it’s something you do as a person,” she said. “With teaching, it’s both you and everyone you’re working with. To make 115 students grow and change is something else.”
Potts said that a career in the arts is fascinating in itself, mainly because it is always about wanting to be better and learning new things about yourself. It’s all about feeling, movement and speaking with your heart and soul.
The Ryerson dance program has increasingly been altered since Potts became director. She put together a team of people to work with, all of which have the same goals and work ethic. The dance program, in which students can now obtain a four-year Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, used to be a three-year diploma.
“It’s a deeper form of education now, more academic, creative and practical,” said Potts. “And it’s great for the students too.”