Jillian Vanstone has reached the highest rank in a ballet company as a Principal Dancer at the National Ballet of Canada. She decided at age 8 that this was a dream she wanted to pursue and hasn’t looked back. Find out the inspiration behind her journey in today’s YPDaily…
Elevator Pitch: Describe your job in a nutshell.
I train for hours to physically embody ideas, emotions, stories, energy, and beauty. I am constantly striving for excellence.
Why did you start working at your company? What was the inspiration for this career route?
I wanted to work for The National Ballet of Canada firstly because it is one of the top companies in the world, and because the repertoire is so varied and interesting. Secondly I love that I can work as a Canadian in a Canadian company. I didn’t have to go somewhere else to dance with a world class institution. It makes me feel proud.
I decided at the age of 8 that this is what I wanted to do. I just loved how dancing made me feel and knew I wanted to do it for life. I know a lot of little girls say they want to be a ballerina, but I was dead serious.
What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis? The most challenging part?
The best part of my job is when all the work pays off and I get out on stage. There is nothing like that feeling. The rush, the nerves, the excitement, the freedom. It actually comes out of the most challenging part which is pushing myself day in and day out physically and emotionally. I’m almost always tired.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
In five years I hope to have taken on some roles that I aspire to, but I have yet to dance, and to have grown more as an artist. This career is about learning and developing constantly. I also hope to have travelled more to perform in other countries.
What does success look like to you?
Success is working toward and achieving one’s goals with integrity and without compromising one’s ideals and morals. If someone makes it to the top, but has no friends once they get there, I don’t think they are truly successful.
What is the most memorable milestone in your career?
In June of 2011 I was promoted to Principal Dancer, the highest rank in a ballet company. It was a dream I had been working toward since I first knew I wanted to be a ballerina.
Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
I like to channel Woody Allen sometimes, who I believe said “80% of life is just showing up.” I have seen some incredible talent that is wasted because of laziness. Even when I really don’t want to, I make myself do the work. It is often in these times that I learn something valuable.
Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is that important to you?
I am an ambassador for Artbound and Free the Children. I became involved with Artbound because I truly believe in the transformative power of art and arts education, and believe that arts can build common ground among people who at first seem so different. Artbound supports Free the Children and I am constantly impressed by their methods. First of all, 99% of all money raised goes directly to the field. Secondly, Free the Children does not tell a community what they should want, but instead asks the people in the community what would make their lives better, and then goes about helping them achieve their goals. It is about giving them a hand up not a hand out, and this is reflected in the pride I saw in the people of a community in Kenya when I travelled there with Artbound and Free the Children.
Being involved is important to me because I have been very fortunate and feel I should put my good fortune to use. I must acknowledge that I have gained so much myself from this work.
What to you is notable?
The pursuit of excellence in any field. I am fascinated by unique minds, dedication, drive, inventiveness. Someone with these qualities need not be famous or high powered. One doesn’t have to change the world, but perhaps will change a single person’s world.
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Describe your ideal retirement: how old will you be and how do you plan on spending your retirement years? (Sponsored by the TD Redefine Retirement Contest)
I want to be very active in my retirement. I can’t imagine not being physical after so many years of dance. I want to be doing yoga and swimming and working out until I can’t anymore. I want to travel and go to the theatre. I want a close group of friends. I want to continue my involvement with Artbound and Free the Children.
As for how old I will be, well I will actually have two retirements. One will be from dancing around my mid-forties. After that I will need to train for a second career. I’m not sure yet how long my second career will be.
What are you looking forward to most about retiring? (Sponsored by the TD Redefine Retirement Contest)
The ability to make my own schedule.
Photo courtesy Aleksandar Antonijevic