Last summer when Erin McNeill was a principal dancer with Ballet Theatre UK, the Centennial secondary graduate heard about a position at her former training school.
Pacific DanceArts, the company in which McNeill had joined at 11 and studied in the pre-professional division with founder Li Yaming, was looking for an artistic director.
And McNeill jumped at the chance to come back home and fill the prestigious role.
By September, the 27-year-old classical ballet dancer was in the big chair, leading the Vancouver school in its vision, helping with shows and teaching senior students.
“It’s been a full circle,” the Burnaby resident told The Tri-City News today (Friday).
Her rise from student to principal dancer and now leader wasn’t always smooth.
In May 2013, while on a summer break from the Atlanta Ballet, she snapped her achilles while taking a class in Vancouver; she was told she may never dance again.
But after months of rehab with daily visits to her therapist, she regain her footing.
And, by the following May, she appeared as a guest artist in Irene Schnider’s production of Coppelia with the Coastal City Ballet, a program of Pacific DanceArts.
By 2015, she was named a soloist with the Cork City Ballet and, the next year, McNeill was with the English National Ballet under the direction of Tamara Rojo.
Ballet Theatre UK called the same year to recruit McNeill as its principal dancer.
Today, McNeill said her tendon injury is a distant memory. “I’ve packed quite a bit in over the past few years but it’s still in my head. There’s nothing I can do about it.”
She’s grateful to have had the chance to travel the world with her craft. “I think being away gives you more perspective and insight. I’ve got a broader understanding of what it’s like there out in the world and what’s expected of you as a dancer.”
As artistic director, “I want the students to have the same experience I had when I went here. It was my home and I want them to have the help and support I had when I was a student so I try hard to keep that family feeling. It’s a happy atmosphere.”