FERGUS – Every day as she walks into the studio, Fergus resident Veronica Higgins is reminded of how lucky she is to pursue a career doing what she loves: ballet.
The internationally recognized dancer began studying ballet later than most. It was not until the age of 15 that Higgins began formal ballet training.
Now 25, Higgins started dancing at the Grand River Dance Academy at a young age.
Beginning with tap and moving on to ballet and modern dance, she was encouraged to pursue ballet professionally after dancing with the Hamilton Academy of Performing Arts.
It was her teacher and mentor Amelia Wanderlingh, who, recognizing Higgins’ potential, dismissed her after the first day and encouraged her to pursue ballet.
Higgins said it was always something on her mind, but it wasn’t until then that she really considered the possibility.
“I always wanted to dance, even after graduating from high school, but I didn’t even think about a career in ballet specifically,” she said.
“Once I started taking ballet classes every day and practicing, I fell in love with it and the ballerina lifestyle.”
Since then, Higgins has danced in Hamilton, Toronto, Michigan, Texas and Kentucky in ballets such as Swan Lake, The Merry Widow, Emeralds, Sleeping Beauty and Serenade.
Higgins has been training professionally for several years, having spent a year with Texas Ballet Theater before receiving a scholarship to study with Nashville Ballet in Tennessee where she spent two years training.
From there, she landed a position as a dancer with Louisville Ballet’s Studio Company where she was for three years.
Higgins said she chose to work and study in the United States because it offered so many more opportunities.
“They have a lot more regional companies that have a big repertoire whereas Canada only has, I think, four big ballet companies and then the style is different in the US as well,” she explained.
“So doing a different style of ballet, or a way of training, was also really good for me as well.
“They have a great repertoire,” she added. “They expect a high level of technique, which pushes you to match it.”
However, Higgins said it was also difficult to seek opportunities outside of Canada, as she cannot stay in the United States unless she receives a job offer.
That said, Higgins recently received two professional job opportunities — one from Brock De Ballet in New Jersey and the other from Huntsville Ballet Company in Alabama — which she is thrilled for.
“They’re both good companies and I’d love to work with both,” Higgins said. “So I’m just trying to figure out which one would be best for my career at this point.”
‘Do what I love’
As she got older, Higgins said she realized how many life lessons ballet provided, including discipline, hard work, problem solving and perseverance.
“It teaches you how to work with a group of people to achieve a common goal,” she said, adding, “it teaches you that if you want to achieve something, you have to work for it.”
Higgins said her long-term career goal is to dance in an international company that offers a wide repertoire.
Working with an international company would allow Higgins to visit different parts of the world with a company recognized and known internationally by others.
“I recently learned how much dance can inspire people, so I hope to inspire people throughout my career and encourage people to pursue their dreams as well,” Higgins said.
She added that her dream was to work with the Royal Ballet School in London, England, as it is her favorite company.
“English has a specific style that’s so clean and precise, but it’s also very artistic,” she said of the dance style. “And they also have a great repertoire there.”
When asked what inspired her to pursue a career in ballet, Higgins said, “I feel like I can be myself on stage and I feel like when I dance, the best parts of me are shown to all who watch.
“It’s a beautiful art form that takes a lot of hard work and it’s challenging and I think I like the challenge that comes with it too,” she added.
“I remind myself every day that I dance that I’m lucky to even be in the studio and to be able to do what I love every day.”