REGINA -- The Royal Winnipeg Ballet conducted virtual auditions in the province on Monday, looking for the newest talent for the renowned dance school.

“Our eyes aren’t trained to assess online, it’s not an easy thing,” said Stephane Leonard, the school director.

Dancers attended an hour-long session, most from a separate location, and followed instructions from a teacher in Winnipeg.

More than 900 students from across Western Canada will show off their pliés and pirouettes over Zoom, hoping to be selected to attend the Royal Winnipeg Ballet school in person.

“Normally we work hands on very much at that age when we do auditions,” said Leonard after the 10-12 year old audition. “We like to see the range of the body.”

Usually the instructors test for flexibility and take measurements of the students in an effort to evaluate their future potential.

However, one of the downfalls of the virtual audition is that this aspect becomes nearly impossible.

“A lot of talented dancers came from Saskatchewan, you should be proud of that,” said Leonard, who has been with the company for 22 years.

Saskatoon’s Tristan Dobrowney just retired from a 15-year career with the company. He considered himself an underdog when his parents drove him to Regina for the in-person audition when he was 13 years old.

“Everyone else has three layers of warm-ups on and special boots to keep their feet warm. I just came with ballet slippers,” laughed Dobrowney.

Only 160 students will be chosen to attend a summer camp in Winnipeg next year. From there, even fewer will be invited to attend the school, in the hopes of joining the ranks of Dobrowney.

One of the school’s most successful dancers, Matthew Golding, also hails from Saskatoon.

“He was a principal dancer with the Royal Ballet in London, dancing in Covent Garden. That’s kind of as good as it gets,” Dobrowney noted.

If selected, students will have an opportunity to travel the world. The pandemic has stifled some performance opportunities, but Dobrowney says discipline and self-criticism are just two of the many lessons learned through ballet.

“Being able to take that constructive criticism from people too and all of these talents and skills are valuable in any part of your life,” Dobrowney said.