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What's in a name?

Honouring the faculty for whom our studios were named.

By Jeanette Reyes

Nadia Potts

Namesake of the dance studio in Kerr Hall South.

A black and white photos of a person smiling softly, wearing a turtle neck

Every time I asked a faculty/staff member, “Who is Nadia Potts?” all of their lips would slightly curve upwards, their eyes twinkling along, indicating a gentle heartwarming smile when thinking about her. Of all the people and articles I've encountered, all mention how Nadia Potts is someone of grace and poise.

Nadia studied at the National Ballet, one of the first to enroll a year after it opened in 1960. She graduated from the school at 16 yet was constantly brought back by her principal, Betty Oliphant (some of you may recognize this name as there is a theatre named after her here in Toronto). She became a principal ballerina at 21, performing in famous works such as Cinderella and The Nutcracker. In her 21 year career as a ballerina, she never missed a single performance due to pain or illness. However, she persued passions apart from her work. Her parents encouraged her to think more than just ballet, but about family and life. At the age of 37, Nadia Potts retired from the National Ballet of Canada and pursued a career in teaching dance. Nadia has always wanted to teach, as her mother, Lucy Potts, was the academic vice-principal at the National Ballet School. She found joy in learning as she taught other students and was described as having a radiant energy exude as she teaches. 

When retiring from the National Ballet, a faculty member of X University happened to go on sabbatical, leaving a spot open for her to teach. The students liked her so much that they petitioned for her to come back.

3 people pose for a photo at a party, holding drinks. The quality of the photos makes it look decades old

Nadia with students, Angie Conuel and Rachel Sellars. Photo courtesy of the School of Performance Archives.

Around 1977, Nadia’s goal was to establish a degree-granting dance program. The diploma had a lot of pressure back then. In 1989 Nadia was the associate chair and Program Director of the Dance Programme at RTS until 2013. 

Stories from Tanya Evidente

If it weren’t for Nadia Potts, Tanya Evidente (current faculty member) would not have pursued a Master's degree. Tanya grew up watching Nadia perform at the National Ballet School since she was 10 years old and saw Nadia’s career progression. Nadia reached out to Tanya years later to ask if she wanted to teach while on sabbatical. Because of this, Tanya discovered joy in teaching at the university level. Both women went to the National Ballet School, had the same teachers and a similar way of teaching. Tanya describes Nadia Potts as one of the most brilliant women regarding integrity and “big picture” thinking. In essence, Tanya defines Nadia Potts as a woman of class and elegance. 

Where is she now?

Nadia is on a grand vacation! I have yet to chat with her, but I cannot wait to meet the prima ballerina that everyone cherishes. 

*The Standing Strong (Mash Koh Wee Kah Pooh Win) Task Force has submitted its final report with recommendation to develop principles to guide commemoration at the university and to respond to the history and legacy of the university's namesake. Included in the list of 22 recommendations agreed to by the university's administration, is the call to change the university's name.