BUSINESS FEATURE: Dance arts stimulate brain development

Boundary Sentinel
By Boundary Sentinel
January 26th, 2011

When you first walk into Granby Dance Studio you get a feeling of being in a bright sunlit space that could be in the Mediterranean. That warm, bright ambiance follows you into the studio proper with its larger than life mirrors where you really feel like a professional.   In 2007, Michele Dean, who had been teaching traditional Irish dance for several years, decided it was time to go further with her vision. When you speak with her in the studio, her love of the art of dance is obvious.   “I am really passionate about dance,” explains Dean as she comfortably relaxes in the studio. Dean is a friendly, open person with a smile for everyone, although she directs classes with great confidence she has the skills to ensure her criticism is not harsh.   “I find dance a totally fulfilling and deeply spiritual art form. For those of us who love dance, having ample opportunities to explore different styles from qualified instructors is important and I wanted to offer this to dancers of all ages in our community.”   For the dancer, Granby Dance Studio offers a wide variety of dance classes, including preschool dance classes, jazz, lyrical, musical theatre, belly dance and Irish dance.    Over the past three years, Dean has brought in a range of talented instructors including Bobbi Bovenzi of the Nankama African Music and Dance Troupe of Penticton, Jasmine Rabbit of the Robb Card Studio in Kelowna, and Rhonda Michallik of Steps Dance Studio in Trail. Along with visiting instructors, Dean is committed to building her own skills and those of her instructors as well.   “We take dance seriously at the studio so we attend and host training events on a regular basis,” adds Dean. “We had Rhonda Michallik from Steps Dance Centre in Trail come to the studio to host a training workshop for our instructors. Rhonda travels to New York every summer to refresh her skills. We can’t all travel to New York, but we can bring a bit of New York to us!”   As part of that ongoing training, instructor Ashlie Jmayoff and Dean will attending the Dance Studio Life Conference this July to take classes with a number of well known dance instructors as well as attend business management and child development seminars as related to dance.   While dance is often seen as just a recreational pastime, many cultures see the art as a critical part of every child’s development. Dean agrees that there are many benefits to being a dancer.   “I have seen time and time again, just by observing my dance students how dance helps develop self esteem, grace, teamwork, as well as leadership skills,” Dean comments. “I include my students in many of the aspects of making decisions about creating and costuming dances and many of my students become choreographers themselves as a result of this practice.”   Dean says that dance also helps other kinds of development. “We intentionally include exercises in our classes that support healthy brain development. Dance helps to develop musicality and rhythm, as well as body awareness,” she explains. In fact some of the early preschool level classes are targeted to teach awareness and coordination along with basic dance skills.    Jmayoff joined the studio in 2010 teaching jazz, lyrical and musical theatre classes, in addition to Dean’s belly dance, Irish dance and preschool dance classes. Jmayoff is a former competitive dancer from The Turning Pointe Dance Studio in Castlegar. She has competed as a soloist and in dance teams at regional and provincial competitions. Dean is proud of Jmayoff’s unique choreography and has noticed that she is a detail-oriented instructor capable of bringing out the best in her dance students.   Originally established as recreational and performance oriented dance studio, Granby Dance is now including opportunities for entering dance competitions as an option for the dedicated dance student. This spring students are entering dances into the regional Kootenay Festival of the Arts, as well as the prestigious provincial dance competition the Shine Dance Festival.   “We believe in the value of both recreational and competitive dance,” explains Dean. “However, we are delighted to be able to offer the opportunity for dancers who want to make more of a commitment to excellence to compete. Dancers who enter into competition spend many hours perfecting their routines. They receive feedback from esteemed instructors which gives them the opportunity to improve, to strive to be the best that they can be.”     For dancers longing for the spotlight, the Studio also has three performance groups who perform at a range of community events, as well an annual dance recital. A number of former students are currently members of performance dance companies in the lower mainland and in the United States.

If you just want to have fun, make some friends and stay fit, or if you’re looking for a more serious dance education, Granby Dance Studio has options for everyone.


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