Emma Bertrand has always wondered what it was like to be Bonhomme.
This year, she is closer to finding it out.
Bertrand, 18, is one of the three candidates for Bonhomme Carnaval mascot. Held by Centre Culturel La Ronde, the carnival is underway and runs until Feb. 27.
Being a part of the annual tradition as a candidate is “super cool,” she says.
“When I was dancing one time at Melissa Kelly Dance Academy (MKDA), Bonhomme came and he surprised us. We had a little dance party with him,” she recalls. “It’s super cool because it really helped people get in the spirit.”
Bertrand is a dance teacher at MKDA and Dansons La Ronde.
At the dance academy, she teaches in both languages, while at La Ronde her classes are only in French. Bertrand says it’s easier for her to speak in French but she’s comfortable teaching in either language.
Dancing has been a part of Bertrand’s life since she was four years old. Ever since she started dancing at MKDA, she has never wanted to do any other sport.
When Melissa Kelly asked Bertrand to be a teacher about three years ago, Bertrand was “super excited” because she loves teaching and loves dancing. She was very honoured because she has always looked up to all her teachers at the dance academy.
“It was so cool to be able to be in their shoes now and that some kid might think of me that way, too,” she says.
At the dance academy, Bertrand teaches ballet, jazz, and contemporary, while at La Ronde she offers jazz and contemporary classes.
Her students range from children ages seven to high school students. She also likes teaching competitive dance to young kids that are first starting out and watching them grow in dancing.
Drawing inspiration from one of her biggest role models Melissa Kelly, the U.S. dancer Autumn Miller and from videos she watches online, Bertrand usually comes up with her own choreography a week or a night before her classes start.
“I go through preparations that Melissa gave me, and I plan out my classes. But usually, I have a choreography set for the end of class for them to learn until recital starts,” she says.
Learning a new choreography and not being able to get the right steps can be hard, she says, but it’s important to stay positive and cheer other dancers on. Although dancing can be challenging and many people may be afraid to start something new, it’s an environment where no one judges each other, she adds.
Bertrand has received several awards for her achievements in dancing including a nomination for scholarship at MKDA, the Perseverance Award, Contemporary Connection, the Shining Star award and more.
She is currently studying online at Laurentian University pursuing social work. She says she’s always wanted to work with children and help others.
When she goes to Sudbury for in-person studies, she hopes to join the university’s competitive dance team. Once she graduates, Bertrand intends to return and settle in her hometown. Having many family members and friends here makes it harder for her to stay away and she likes the environment in Timmins, she says.
Bertrand also plans to continue dancing and teaching.
“Dancing is something I’ve been doing my whole life. It’s something that helps me escape from the real world,” she says. “I’m able to let go of all the feelings that I have. If I have a hard day, dancing is something I go to and then I’m able to let everything go.”
Dariya Baiguzhiyeva, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, TimminsToday.com