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Photo of James Leja, Patrick Lavoie and Christopher Stalzer
James Leja, Patrick Lavoie and Christopher Stalzer. Photo by Marlee Maclean

Grande Changement

Three National Ballet dancers go from the barre to the books

At the height of their careers, three danseurs have retired from the National Ballet of Canada to enrol at U of T and join the thousands of mature students who study at the university.

“As a ballet dancer, you know your career has to come to an end,” says Patrick Lavoie, whose portrayal of Romeo in Romeo and Juliet and Prince Charming in Cinderella earned him standing ovations.

In his new role as a life sciences student, Lavoie, 37, will draw from his dance background. “I’m bringing the strong work ethic of a ballet dancer,” he says. Lavoie was attracted to U of T because of its stellar reputation and myriad student clubs. “I’m thinking of joining the beekeeping group,” he says.

Christopher Stalzer, 31, is eager to play squash at Hart House. But he admits he’s nervous about the transition to university student. “I’ve had sleepless nights worrying about how difficult the courses might be,” says Stalzer, who is pursuing an economics degree – and hopes to take some commerce and computer science courses.

Over the last few years, James Leja, 31, has joined Stalzer and Lavoie in taking online courses to brush up on their academics. Inspired by a course in which he programmed a computer game, Leja is studying computer science.

What the three men miss most about the National Ballet are their fellow dancers, whom they regard as family. Lavoie and Stalzer, though, will remain connected to the company through their wives, who are dancers with the National.

Photo by Marlee Maclean.
Photo by Marlee Maclean.

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