Dancing in the Bay

September 2016

Dance is a fabulous physical and emotional expression that can span all ages, and Thunder Bay offers all kinds of dance from competitive to just plain fun. Shannon Young, president of the Thunder Bay Society of Ballet and Dance, started me off on my journey to learn more about dance in Thunder Bay. To begin with, Shannon’s step grandmother was Sylvia Horn, a name that many of us remember fondly as we recall our own days of learning tap, baton twirling, ballet and participating in the Santa Claus Show at the Fort William Gardens.
Shannon was a baton twirler for a number of years, and she has continued her involvement in dance through participating as a parent of a dancing daughter and as a volunteer. Shannon noted that, “Dance is a lifestyle”, and that statement was often repeated as I interviewed the dancers for this article.
You may be thinking about dance as a possibility in your life and wondering where to go. Shannon supplied me with a list of places that are all worthy of exploring: Legacy Performing Arts Company, Dance Dynamics, Dream Dance, Studio One, Experience Dance, International Dance Academy, Fay Gleeson Dance, Spirit of Dance, World Dance Centre, Vibe Dance Centre, Applauze Productions, Slightly Off Broadway, Art in Motion, Body Barre, Stephanie’s Performance Company, Army of Sass, Chaban Ukrainian Dance, Zorya Ukrainian Dance, Le Stelle Alpine Dancers, and Morgan’s School of Highland Dance just to name a few. What an amazing variety of places to experience dance in Thunder Bay!
As president of the Thunder Bay Society of Ballet and Dance, Shannon is involved with the Lakehead Festival of Music and Arts. Competition comprises a large part of her work, but also scholarships, awards and workshops are a mandate of the organization. During competition season the local dance studios get the opportunity to showcase their talent. “This is a time to come together on stage with a sense of community. A time for everyone to shine,” says Shannon.
The fact that dance can be enjoyed by all ages is really appealing to me. It can begin with kinderdance as early as three years old, progress through many stages of ballet, tap, hip hop, jazz, dance/drama for boys and girls to seniors clogging. There is such a lot to choose from for all levels, genders and ages.
Dance can help you develop healthy habits of exercise for your whole life and fosters good sportsmanship. If it is at a competition, a recital or a show, Shannon said, “It doesn’t matter to these dancers what studio the dancers are from, they are always congratulating and cheering each other on, and that’s the best part.”
I continued to learn more about dance in Thunder Bay by speaking with three more women who are involved with the dance community. I began by chatting with Denise Krawczuk, founder and owner of Applauze Productions. Denise is a great supporter of musical theatre and her studio offers a triple threat…dance, voice and acting. She focuses on these three aspects of performance to develop confidence in her students. Any one of these areas can be explored further within her studio.
Denise talked about her wish to see more musical theatre in the city because she feels it develops that confidence and a real love for theatre. Performance is a natural goal for musical theatre, and Broadway on Bay at the Finlandia is a specific production that Denise talked about. She hopes to see more and more productions offered in the future.
The motto of Applauze Productions, is “Where every star shines.” She added that her wish is that, ”Any person who walks through the door would have a positive experience and personal growth.”

We talked about the benefits of studying dance, voice and acting, and it was underlined again that it gives a person an opportunity to shine. It taps into a person’s passion and provides him/her with a means of expression. Camaraderie develops, especially during the shows and through that mutual trust, confidence grows.

Denise was alive with excitement and passion as she spoke about musical theatre, as I toured around her spacious and airy studio. For more information, contact Denise at www.applauzeproductions.com.
I danced along to speak with Stephanie DePiero, a freelancer who works with four different studios. Her love of music and musicals plus the influence of her family brought her to dance. Stephanie often referred to her mother, Lynda DePiero, who teaches dance in Thunder Bay, as being a strong role model in her life.

Stephanie is involved as a freelance dance artist www.stephaniedepiero.ca, as a location manager and instructor with the Army of Sass of Thunder Bay www.armyofsass.com/thunderbay. She is the owner of Stephanie’s Performance Company which is geared towards the serious student who wants to train, study, perform and who is aspiring to a future career in the industry.

The Army of Sass brings training, performing, confidence and dance together. It is open to students 18+ and is a Canada wide organization. The Dance Room books independent dance artists to share their knowledge of dance.

Stephanie’s wish list for dance in Thunder Bay is that there would be more support for ballet and for dance to be seriously considered as a profession. As Stephanie said, “There is nothing like dancers working in a group, sweating, training and creating together.”

I learned from Stephanie that dance constantly evolves and is a lifelong activity. Stephanie has a great passion for dance and how it creates a happiness that brings you to another world.

I topped my dance tour off by chatting with Cindy Kennedy who is at the Fay Gleeson Dance Centre. Cindy’s mom was Fay’s teacher and with these family role models, dance was a logical path for Cindy.

All kinds of dance is offered at the Fay Gleeson Dance Centre: tap, ballet, jazz, lyrical ballet meets jazz, zumba, hip hop, and acro (which is like gymnastics with less flipping and emphasis on balance, flex and dance). There is a place for recreational as well as competitive students. Cindy’s wish list for dance in Thunder Bay would be to encourage more males to participate in dance so that their involvement at all ages would be more natural and acceptable. Dance is an incredible exercise, and everyone’s expression should be celebrated.

Cindy noted that her career in dance is always changing. “Dance is a lifestyle…its part of you, like breathing.” This is a theme that threaded through all of the interviews. In each routine that Cindy develops, she puts in a bit of herself.

Cindy says everyone benefits from keeping the body moving. This is a wonderful concept and perhaps some of us feel that dance is for only the young.

Information about the studio and classes can be accessed at www.faygleesondance@gmail.com.

How inspiring it was to talk with Shannon, Denise, Stephanie and Cindy! These women are all so enthusiastic and dedicated to dance. It made me feel a surge of pride that we have such a high calibre of teachers right here in Thunder Bay. Explore the studios, get moving and experience the joy of dance!

Karen Christie is a retired high school teacher and a regular contributor to Bayview. She can be reached at kchri@shaw.ca

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