Dance step into the future

Young Italian dancers at the École Supérieure de Ballet du Québec

Dayana and Erika Cattaldo, 16 years old, twins. Sofia Dadone and Christian Scifo, 20 years. These are the names of the very young dancers of Italian origin who are currently attending the École Supérieure du Ballet du Québec (ÉSBQ) in Montréal, hotbed of talent for Les Grands Ballets Canadiens (GBC) and for the greatest dance companies in the world.

Il Corriere Italiano met them to learn about the journey, projects and aspirations of these artists who, albeit at a young age, did not hesitate to leave Italy to pursue their dreams, at the cost of various sacrifices and a pinch of nostalgia.

Born in Poirino, a town about twenty kilometers from Turin, Sofia Dadone she began to take her first steps in the world of dance at the age of 5. «They advised me to do it – she explains – because I had a problem with my knees. At the age of 13 I went to study dance in Turin, at the school of Oxana Kichenko, a former dancer of the Bolshoi in Moscow, and at the same time I was attending the linguistic high school. My days were packed. School in the morning and ballet in the afternoon, then home to do homework and start again the next day. But I’ve never let myself get too down with fatigue. I did well in school; I had my ups and downs in dance, also because I didn’t have any particular physical skills and I had to work a lot especially on extension. Generally – continues Sofia – at 18-19 she finishes dance school and looks for a job as a dancer. I didn’t feel ready yet. I felt that something was still missing. I sent videos for the auditions in different dance schools and when I was no longer hoping for it, the email from the École arrived. They had accepted me.

Sofia Dadone

I was supposed to arrive in Montreal in September 2020 – continues Sofia – but unfortunately due to the pandemic and some bureaucratic problems my arrival was postponed to January 2021. Apart from the cold, I was really excited to be able to attend this school which from the beginning always put me at ease. However, not even the time to “warm up”, that three weeks later, due to a bad movement, I broke my foot during a lesson and had to stop for a few months. Fortunately I recovered and, thanks to the support of the school, I am now in the third and last year of my high school and, hopefully, in May I will receive my high school diploma in ballet from the ÉSBQ».

The Twins

Dayana and Erika they will be 17 in March, they come from Monza and have been in Montreal since last July. After attending an intensive course, they began their cycle of high school studies at the ESBQ in September and at the same time they attend the linguistic high school in Italy as private students.

“We too – Dayana explains We started dancing when we were 5. Up to the age of 8 we attended an amateur school. Then we went to study at the Ukrainian Ballet Academy in Milan. Middle school in the morning in Monza and dance in the afternoon in Milan, even our days were full like those in Sofia. We also took private lessons. Our teacher had worked in Canada and it was she who suggested the idea of ​​sending videos for the auditions at the ÉSBQ». «The idea – continues Erika – we liked it both because we wanted to have an experience of growing up abroad and because we didn’t feel too comfortable in the environment we were in. One of our teachers has always told us that to work well you need to feel good about yourself and here, at ESBQ, we feel perfectly at ease».

The twins Dayana and Erika Cattaldo

How did your parents react when they learned that the ÉSBQ had admitted you to their courses?

«In the beginning – Erika replies – our father was very sad and worried: “My girls, she said, are only 16, go like thisthe distant!”. Our mother is very open minded. She has always been of the idea that having new experiences, especially like these, could make us grow a lot. She pushed us to take this path and Dad slowly accepted it and understood that it was a very important growth path for us. We left alone, the school helped us with logistics. We now live in an apartment with another 17-year-old girl whose sister acts as our legal guardian until we are 18. Our parents, who came to see us in October, settled all the legal problems but the school never fails to support us ».

Dayana Cattaldo

How was your impact with Montreal?

«A lot of nostalgia for family, for friends, for the environment, for Italian food and also a little fear because – the twins say – you know what you are leaving but you don’t know what you will find. But we liked the new environment right away and we’re liking it a lot, as well as the city. People are all kind and helpful. So, despite a bit of nostalgia, we feel good».

“The Apprentice”

Christian Scifo is originally from the province of Asti. “I started dancing when I was 15. I did artistic gymnastics – says Christian – then I saw them dance Roberto Bolle and I have since decided that ballet would be my path.

Christian Scifo

I graduated from the Germana Erba theater dance high school in Turin, a school for dancers, singers and actors. But towards the end of high school I started asking myself the question: What am I going to do next? To pursue a career as a dancer it was absolutely necessary to start sending videos and photos to audition for the various dance companies. Thanks to a series of circumstances I came into contact with Joseph ChannelNeapolitan, current dancer of the GBC extension who, among other things, runs an agency that looks after the interests of the dancers. We took photos and videos that his agency sent to various companies including the ÉSBQ who offered me the opportunity to join their school to perfect my technique.

So – he adds – I left for Montreal in February of last year and I immediately found myself very well thanks to everyone’s kindness and availability. Also, the opportunity presented itself to me last June to get my first real work experience, a small role, a replacement, in the show “Sleeping Beauty” of the GBCs. Passing from the school environment to the professional one was an exceptional experience: the impact with the public, with the corps de ballet, with the stage, the real one in the Place des Arts, the applause. So they gave me the qualification of “apprentice” of the GBC integrating me in the company with which I prepared the 2022-23 season by recently participating in the “Nutcracker”.

What are your ambitions? Where do you want to go?

Erika and Dayana they have clear ideas: «Our goal is dance but we want to continue our Italian studies because in life you never know. So, after these three years at ÉSBQ we will audition for various dance companies all over the world.

«Two years ago I started – he says Sofia – to do Law in Italy. Let’s just say it’s hard to do both. This year, since it’s also my last year before graduation, I want to dedicate it completely to dance, also to prepare for auditions. We’ll see how it goes and then I’ll make a decision. But one thing is certain: dance is my priority and I will try hard. I’m open to anything and willing to go anywhere for dance.”

Sofia Dadone

«It is difficult to answer this question because – he explains Christian – when one is at the beginning of his career like me, he focuses a lot on the present and doesn’t think too much about the distant future because he says: I want to live in the moment which is full of good news and new experiences. But it is clear that at some point we will also have to think about the future. I really like Montréal but I would like to go back to dance in Europe one day because in my opinion it remains the center of dance».

What is dance for you?

«It is difficult to give an exact definition. I learned it as a child – she says Sofia – and growing up it became something important. If I go more than two or three days without dancing, I start to miss it, I start to feel the urge to move, to take steps. It’s something that enters you when you grow up, it’s something you have to do otherwise you don’t feel good about yourself.

«We started dancing when we were 5, we grew up with dance. By now – they say Dayana and Erika – it is a necessity. So we just couldn’t imagine staying more than a week without dance, it’s something that is part of us».

Erika Cattaldo

Also for Christian it is difficult to answer this question: «It is not easy for a dancer to express what dance is, also because it is a very personal thing. Everyone has their own way of experiencing dance, some in a more carnal, more intimate way, some expressing it in all its colours. But my colleagues are right: it’s difficult for us to stay away from dance, even when we stop dancing we always have a step or a movement in mind. We always try to connect dance to our normal life. I think dance is a bit like a drug because once you have it in you can’t do without it. Dance is my source of energy, if I didn’t have dance I don’t know what I would be able to do also because in my life I only see myself as a dancer».

Christian Scifo

Hearings and information

The École Supérieure de Ballet du Québec, 4816 rue Rivard, Montréal, will hold auditions on Sunday 29 January. For information: Tel: 514 849-4929 –

Dance step into the future – Corriere Italiano