Since 2004, the Gulf Islands School of Performing Arts (GISPA) has enrolled Acting, Music and Dance students at Gulf Islands Secondary on Salt Spring Island. The students collaborate, creating original music, choreography and scene-work geared towards a final year-end production at ArtSpring Theatre. We asked three GISPA students, one from each strand, to tell us how this works:
“Learning through GISPA is a unique and refreshing experience in a secondary school arts program. This is my second year in GISPA and both years, it has been a major boost to my artistic abilities. To not only see how other artists (dancers and actors) create, but also then merging all our creative processes to create a performance we can all be proud of was something very new for me coming into GISPA. I have learned to work with people I would have never worked with before, and I’ve found new ways to collaborate with new musicians. GISPA is a place where advanced art students can explore their full potential and challenge themselves.
The ability to integrate the three separate art forms into a cohesive show is a valuable skill to have as an artist and being able to understand creators from other art forms will boost one’s opportunities for work as an artist in the modern world. GISPA allows us to reach new heights of creation for our age and be among other artists of our level.” — Jacob
“GISPA is an advanced program for students at Gulf Islands Secondary in grades 9-12 who excel in Dance, Music and Theater. This program offers the chance to do workshops with professionals and see incredible performances in Vancouver, Victoria and on Salt Spring. This year alone the dancers have worked with Ballet BC, Shay Kuebler, Sølvi Edvardsen and Ballet Victoria. We have also seen performances such as Revisor, Shen Yun, and various productions performed at the Scotiabank Dance Center. GISPA provides many possibilities that are very hard to come by for the youth of Salt Spring Island.
All three strands work together over the course of the school year to create an original production. We first study a novel that will become the theme for our production. After we have all read the novel and we understand the story, we collaborate in class to make short compositions; this is how our show is created. In the beginning, we all create the script together in class and on our own time. It consists of ideas based on whichever show/play we decide to recreate as well as many original ideas. We spend a fair amount of time in our own strands learning technique and creating our own choreography, music, and scenes. The final production is a showcase of the collaboration of the three strands.” —Heidi
“The GISPA program provides an environment that supports both collective and personal growth. Every year is a completely new experience, with the assurance of deep learning. This is the nature of an ensemble. As cohorts change and evolve, so does the art that is created. Every individual brings something unique. As a group, we use our personal skills, flaws
The first part of the year is spent ensemble building and training, primarily within one’s respective strand. After a few months, we begin to collaborate more as a full company with a focus on our show and building material inspired by its themes. Improvisations become compositions, compositions become scenes, scenes evolve into a narrative until that narrative becomes a complete story told through music, dance and theatre. Each strand inspires and supports the other, just like each student.” —Kahlila