Love of dance alive and well

Barre None dancers prepare for their recent year-end show Breathe With Me at the T. Gil Bunch Centre in Mill Bay. - Peter W. Rusland
Barre None dancers prepare for their recent year-end show Breathe With Me at the T. Gil Bunch Centre in Mill Bay.
— image credit: Peter W. Rusland

On stage, all went smoothly.

Little girls in tutus, big girls in pointe shoes; hip-hop crews and solo routines; tap-dancing work by dozens of Barre None Dance Studio students — each flowed across the T. Gil Bunch stage in seamless fashion.

Their May 10 presentation, called Breathe With Me, kicked off the valley’s traditional month of year-end dance recitals.

Given the range of ages and experience on stage, a nervous, attentive packed house — including company owner Kelli McLeod, her instructors, their pupils, family and friends — should have expected some stage glitches. But act after act moved like a Swiss watch during the big night. Perhaps that was not surprising, given the troupe’s commitment to months of disciplined rehearsal at home, and in the studio.

“Not being ready? That’s not an option,” Caitlin Bruce stated during a busy May 7 dress rehearsal.

So it figured precious few flubs were reported by the super-critical insiders when their recital wrapped, despite some close calls.

“I thought I was going to mess up in my attack dance, but I didn’t,” commented Kathleen Hyde-Lay.

“My costume got caught in my (hair) beret,” stated Makayla Roberts.

“It was all fast (costume) changes, but it was fun,” noted Jaiden Dorio.

But tired dancer Kristina Roberts captured the backstage consensus.

“I’m so proud of everyone,” she said. “Everyone I’ve talked to said it was one of their best shows.”

Barre None’s fun-based philosophy — evident during hours of special access granted the News Leader Pictorial — takes some credit for the night’s good vibes.But the flawless finale came courtesy of hard-work, focussed on perfection, by McLeod’s dance clan.

“It’s a great experience for everyone involved,” she said. “We’re not just a dance studio, but a family.”

Divorcing stress from dress rehearsals helped stoke students’ confidence.

Dancers arranged a conveyor belt of costumes in dressing rooms, or applied makeup and lipstick; others were on stage getting tips from McLeod. Teachers led students into seats, or to the wings to enter next. Out in the green room, parents were busy with babies or registration work.

“Until helping backstage, I didn’t realize how much timing is important, said Alex Thomas.

So was makeup to dancer Kenzie Stevens, 5.

“It was interesting putting makeup on a five-year-old girl and seeing her turn into a ballerina princess,” said mom Kirsten Johnston.

Character is crucial to McLeod.

“My goal is to have dancers really want to be on stage, and to learn.”

Learning by leaping into lessons was the pay-off for Leticia Roberts, mother of Kristina and Makayla.

“We spend about $2,000 a year on dance, but it’s worth it. We just think it’s an investment in their future.

“Dance keeps my daughters physically and mentally active,” she said. “Interacting with people will generally help them in life; it gets them off their iPhones and computers.”

She said participating in the arts also raises her daughters’ school grades and builds their self-confidence.

“I’m always amazed seeing them on stage; they just work so hard.”

Jazz and hip-hop dancer Makayla, 13, agreed.

“If you don’t go full out practising at home, it’s much harder to go full out on stage,” she said of routine grooming in the family’s dining room.

That’s where Kristina, 16 — pursuing ballet, jazz, hip-hop, modern, and musical theatre — helps Makalya, and herself, master moves.

“I make lists of all my costumes, and look at the order of all my dances — then I listen to the music over and over so I feel more prepared.”

Readying routines for the spring recital starts in September; loafing isn’t an option.

“If you’re not ready come show time, you’ll probably get on stage, freak out, and forget your dance,” Kristina said.

Bruce — 15 and studying ballet, contemporary and jazz — said recital dancers are often backstage batting butterflies before going on.

“You breathe to get through,” she said.

Like the Roberts sisters, Bruce hones her moves at home.

“I use my iPod and run it through in my head. Everyone screws up once in awhile, but you don’t stop; you keep going.”

Dancing solo is a different pressure cooker, she indicated.

“I’m the only one on stage, but I love the stage — I think about nothing out there but the music.”

So do twins Darby and Sidney Peterson, 16, balancing ballet and contemporary work.

“You think all year about perfecting your dances,” said Sidney. “I like music and dance, and they go together — and it’s good exercise.”

“You have to work hard, love it, and want it to look good at the end,” noted Darby.

Teacher Trista Tosh (jazz, contemporary, technique) hoped her students keep that attitude to foil performance fear.

“For some kids, it’s ‘Dance is my life’; for others ‘It’s not my first priority.’ You have to let them know we’re here for the same reason. It’s about working as as group to get a beautiful end result.”

Hip-hop instructor Dani Wilder agreed.

“If you drill students too hard, they shut down. I’m stern when I need to be; if you work hard, it all comes together.”

That happened for Hannah Gallacher during various numbers during Breathe.

“Each time you do (routine), you get more used to it,” she said, decompressing backstage.

“I’m still running on adrenalin.”


Next on the marquee

Steps Ahead Dance: Performing @ Home XI Fame, May 23, 7:30 p.m.; May 24, 2:30 and 7:30 p.m.; T. Gil Bunch Theatre, $17.50, $14.50 students and seniors.

Celtic Rhythms: 2014 Showcase: Tradition Moving Forward; May 31, 7 p.m. Cowichan Theatre, $16, $14 students and seniors.

Carlson’s School of Dance: Film & Fantasy: Year-End Spectacular; June 12 and 13, 6:30 p.m.; June 14, 2 p.m. Cowichan Theatre. Contact the Cowichan Theatre for prices.

Adage Studio: Mary Poppins, June 21, 2 p.m., Cowichan Theatre. Contact the Cowichan Theatre for prices.

LT Dance Studio: The Beginning-Give Your All: new studio’s first year-end recital at the Cowichan Theatre, June 29 at 2 p.m. Tickets $18, $10 for children 12 & under, free for those under three. Phone 250-661-1767.

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