The Okanagan School of Ballet has been a fixture on Vernon’s 27th Street since it opened in 1980. The school’s director and one of its founders, Deborah Banks, is a former member of the Alberta Ballet Company and a born-and-raised Vernonite.
Prior to housing the ballet school, the building, which was built circa 1938, was used as a private residence and later by the local Jehovah’s Witnesses.
In addition to ballet training, the school also offers classes in tap, jazz, modern, and hip hop, and prepares students to take exams with the Royal Academy of Dance. Several of Bank’s graduates have gone on to have successful careers in performing arts.
In addition to regular classes, students at the Okanagan School of Ballet participate in festivals and recitals. In 1990, to celebrate their 10th anniversary, students performed “A Celebration of Dance.” In 1993, the Okanagan School of Ballet and the Young Scott Singers entertained audiences with a production of The Nutcracker, with Katherine Wilson playing Clara. In 2013, the school presented The Wizard of Oz for its annual recital, which saw Andie Wemyss fill the role of Dorothy.
Banks, who holds an advanced executant certificate from the Royal Academy of Dance, has being teaching dance to students of all ages and skill-levels for more than 40 years. That is a lot of pointed toes!
Right: A photo from the May 1, 1990, edition of the Vernon News. Young dancers prepare for their Royal Academy of Dance exams at the Okanagan School of Ballet.
Gwyn Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator