Meet Ida Gerasolo – one of our community leaders and a great dance pedagogue. Since quarantine started and many schools scrambled to continue their studies online, Ida seamlessly transferred all her ballet classes into virtual reality keeping her young ballerinas fit and dancing at home. Going into week six, we have daily ballet classes and contemporary dance and the school spirit is flying high. Just check our Instagram @I.d.a.ballet for the beautiful dance reports from our home studios. Ida’s love for teaching started at a young age. 

She started dancing at the age of three, and at the age of twelve, she began noticing some of the mistakes that other dance students were making. Then her teacher and mentor said to her, “You should be a teacher; you have a keen eye, you notice things that others don’t.” While many ballet students dreamt of making it to the big stage, Ida always knew she wanted to be a teacher. After graduating from York University with a degree in Fine Arts, Dance, and Dance Therapy, Ida went to Italy to dance for a contemporary ballet company Chorea. Shortly after, she was accepted into the professional teacher training program at La Scala, Milan and The National Ballet School of Canada (NBS) in Toronto. Ida chose to return to Canada and studied at NBS for three years. There she taught in the associate ballet program and assisted in the professional ballet program. While attending NBS, Ida had built her own mini-studio in northern Toronto where she gave private lessons to ballet students and rhythmic gymnasts. She enjoyed the creative freedom that her private lessons afforded her so much that in 2012 she decided to open her own boutique studio at Lakeshore Blvd. and Cawthra Rd., which later grew into a private ballet school in Port Credit and Mineola. Her name is Ida Gerasolo, and the school is called I.D.A. – International Dance Academy. 

Last year, the school had 30 students enrolled in the dance programs and 20 students taking private lessons. Although the studio was small in nature, so where the class sizes. Ida believes that a small classroom setting is perfect for training and teaching technical and artistic aspects of dance. Another exciting fact about the school is that I.D.A. is the only school in Mississauga with a High Performer Program which allows talented students to combine the Ontario school curriculum with ballet school so that students study ballet during regular school hours. 

The grand finale of the 2018-2019 school season was the performance of the ballets La Bayadère and Les Sylphides in which all of the students participated. The show required many hours of rehearsals, planning, and costume designing. It was a performance with beautiful costumes, digital backdrops and the interaction of students of all ages and skill levels on the stage of the Ivan Fecan Theatre at York University. With more than a hundred people in attendance, it was truly a grand finale to a productive school year. 

This year, the I.D.A. ballet school is expanding and opening up a few spots for the new dancers. The goal is to have 50 students in the school. The academy has three spacious studios and international dance teachers and instructors, to give students the experience of different approaches to education for the aspiring young ballerinas who plan to enter the professional ballet world. In addition to ballet classes, I.D.A. offers jazz, contemporary dance, and conditioning. Ida stresses the importance of conditioning, because of her background in dance therapy. Conditioning means teaching dancers how to stretch their bodies and execute movements in such a way as to minimize the likelihood of injury. “If professional hockey players suffer an injury, they are given time to recuperate without losing their salary,” explains Ida, “A dancer does not have this luxury. Injured or not, the show must go on.” I.D.A. also provides dance therapy to injured dancers. Dancers learn how to move without causing additional injury and are given treatment methods that promote faster healing. 

Ida is proud that some of her graduates are advancing their ballet studies. Arielle Miralles, whom Ida taught for four years, is now a student at Canada’s National Ballet School and danced as Marie in the school’s The Nutcracker. Other students of Ida’s went on to train at The Kirov Academy of Ballet in Washington, School of American Ballet in New York City, The Royal Ballet School in England, and the Vaganova School in Russia. 

Ida is always looking for ways to give back to the community. Every year during the holiday season, Ida and her senior students donate to the Mississauga Shoebox Project that helps homeless women. She also pairs disadvantaged students with sponsors, thus enabling them to continue dancing. For this, she organizes the auditioning of all interested students, and adjudicators evaluate and choose the ones who will most benefit from sponsorship. This school year, four of I.D.A.’s students will receive sponsorship. Also in this year, senior students at I.D.A. will participate in a Community Outreach Project. They will provide lessons for disadvantaged children in one of the after-school programs in Mississauga. The students will become teachers. This way perhaps some of them will choose Ida’s career for themselves. (Fact check this paragraph with Ida) 

A couple of years ago, the I.D.A. ballet school started a new Christmas tradition – a trip to the Nutcracker ballet. And every year the students and interested parents have the opportunity to share this wonderful Peter Tchaikovsky ballet performed by the National Ballet of Canada. The added bonus – an excursion behind the scenes after the performance, where all the magic becomes alive with the prompts and costumes reminding on the magic of Christmas performance. 

This year, I.D.A. expanded and added one more floor under the studios where she opened an AMAROO community wellness centre with yoga, pilates, core strength class, rehabilitation for injured dancers, massage services, and counselling for youth. The classes are very easy to register in with the phone app Achieve. Although AMAROO is a different entity from the ballet school, the beauty of it is that classes are drop-in, giving parents waiting for their children the option to participate in any class, instead of sitting in the waiting room. For instance, while waiting for their little ballerinas, parents can take the suspension class, which stretches out your body by hanging upside down, the group meditation class, and so on. 

On November 10, 2019, I.D.A. International Dance Academy celebrated an official opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. By Ida Gerasolo side were Lee Tovey, a professional dancer and family friend, Teresa Randall, her teacher from Canada’s National Ballet School, Rudy Cuzzetto, MPP of Mississauga Lakeshore, other government officials and also, family, friends, and students. 

One of the youngest dancers, a 5-year-old, told me a secret: “Ida has a ballerina picture on her cell phone.” I checked. She was right. Ida’s screensaver is a ballerina. Ida also has ballerina ornaments on her Christmas tree every year, and she gives ballerina shaped cookies to students. Students waiting for their lessons to begin can watch ballet performances on the TV in the waiting room. It is a perpetual celebration of everything ballet at I.D.A.’s. 

For more info about I.D.A., visit their website here.

Uliana Hlynchak 

Kontakt Media, Toronto

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