Dunsmuir middle school’s dance academy students have been working hard to get ready for their final performance of the year. One of their numbers the Grade 6 students are working on is a toe-tapping jazz routine that has a country flare to it. (Katherine Engqvist/News Gazette staff).

Dunsmuir’s dance academy looks to get students moving

Some spaces still available for next school year

If you have a middle schooler that loves to move then Dunsmuir may just have an academy program that will keep those little feet tapping.

The Colwood-based middle school is home to the Sooke School District’s dance academy program and they’re looking for a few more students to fill out the fall roster.

Led by instructor Danica Anderson the program features one group at each grade level that encompasses all ranges of ability. She noted there’s often a misconception around the program and that students need to have years of experience in a studio to be able to join. “Our philosophy is completely the opposite of that … We take kids with all levels of dance training, including those that have never danced before.”

All they look for in students, Anderson said, is a passion about dance and a keen desire to learn while working hard.

With students at all levels, exercises and routines are modified to challenge every dancer. “It’s a huge range but that’s what makes this program unique,” Anderson said. Students are trained in a number of styles but mainly focus on tap, jazz, contemporary and ballet.

While the Grade 7 group is full with a wait list, there are still a few spaces open at the Grade 6 and 8 levels.

“It’s a fun program and they work hard,” Anderson noted. In the fall, students will be dancing three times a week and will earn a physical education credit for the course as well.

Students are also given the opportunity to expand their skills with guest instructors that focus on a specific style. The Grade 6s were taught a Bollywood dance this year, while the Grade 7s have been working on a belly dancing routine.

“It’s been an amazing transformation,” Anderson said, noting the confidence needed for that style is something students at this age can struggle with.

But building that confidence and support network is also what this academy is about. With a number of students carrying on straight through to Grade 12 and the sister program at Royal Bay secondary, Anderson said they develop a team mentality that has helped a number of students get through difficult times in their teenage years.

“We have a strong connection with the Royal Bay dance academy … our philosophy is the same,” she explained. “That sometimes is the one thing that holds it all together for them.”

A former Dunsmuir student herself, she has alumni from the program that keep coming back to help with rehearsals or instruction.

But getting students dancing isn’t just limited to those in the program. All students at Dunsmuir have the opportunity to take a hip hop class after school. It’s run in partnership with The Beat Dance Studio and is led by a world-class instructor.

“We specifically targeted hip hop to encourage both boys and girls,” Anderson said. “It’s nice for the other kids in the school to see that dance isn’t just for girls.”

The extra class is offered free of charge to all students and is funded by the PAC.

If you’re interested in the program, Dunsmuir’s academy students will be performing this Monday and Tuesday (June 19 and 20) at 7 p.m. it the Teechamitsa Theatre at Royal Bay secondary in Colwood. Tickets are $5 and students in the Royal Bay dance academy will also be featured in the performances, which should run for about an hour.

The academy fee for the 2017/18 school year is approximately $940.00 with an $84 deposit due at the time of registration. The fee includes everything from uniforms, to choreographers, festival entrance fees, transportation costs and all costumes for the year, among other things. For more information go to dunsmuirdanceacademy.weebly.com.

katie@goldstreamgazette.com

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