By Eileen Jones
March 6, 2015
Somewhere in the twisting hallways and construction beneath Charlottetown’s Confederation Centre, the Holland College School of Performing Arts is holding an invitational-only dance class.
The class is part of an Open Studio Day for prospective high school students interested in participating in a real day of class with instructors and enrolled students.
“We sent invitations to the high schools and dance organizations across the Island,” says instructor Peggy Reddin as she guides me through the maze-like backstage area.
“The idea is to give students a sense of what’s to come if they enroll with us.”
Reddin opens a steel door leading into a long, bright rehearsal room.
Fifteen girls lead by instructor Taryn Vankerk are stretching, using yoga fused with quicker dance exercises to help loosen up muscles before they begin dancing.
“One, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, plié to the toes, tendue first!” instructs Vankerk to the beats of pop music.
The high school students in the room were granted a day off school to attend. Brianna Carrier and Kennedy Leard are friends from Bluefield high school who are interested in taking the program.
“We’re in an arts program, it’s a requirement for us,” said Carrier.
Leard said she learned a lot today, and had a lot of fun.
“I like singing, so I want to attend school for that. But I really like dancing.”
Vankerk then explains the next set of moves, involving the girls running and rolling across the room – plus a crawl across the floor on hands and feet making exaggerated movement, called the “bear walk.”
“Don’t worry, have fun; giggle at yourself!” Vankerk says as she encourages the students.
Indeed, some seem a little embarrassed to join in first, but once Vankerk’s second-year students jumped in to show off their bear walks across the room, the others joined in.
“I’ve been dancing since I was six, and it’s something I’ve always loved,” says Vankerk.
Vankerk has been teaching at SoPA for two years, having grown up as a dancing child in British Columbia and graduating with a BFA in dance performance from Ryerson.
“Teaching is something I love more than performing. I love seeing their growth.”
She said the school is looking for basic levels of training in dance from people who apply.
“You have to audition to be accepted into the program. But what we really want is openness and willing to learn in this field.”
Applications and further information for the program can be found online at the Holland College website.