Kelly Whiteside
The Navigator

Some people spend their life searching for passion, something that makes them happier than anything else, something they want to excel at endlessly, and when they finally find it, they want to jump into it right away. Despite having a growing passion for something, putting that passion into action may not be as easy as it seems, though there are certainly opportunities out there.

Many dancers begin lessons at a young age. As they grow and mature, dance is all they know. They’re familiar with the routine. Not just the choreographed routine, but the annual routine—registration period, festivals, competitions, and recitals. Dance becomes more than fun, exercise, art, a career, and more than a lifestyle—dance becomes a passion.

For those starting dance as a toddler, the path is set out nicely. They go through all the classes, and levels, gathering skills. When they enter their teen years, they have the option of attending a pre-professional program that takes dancers to a professional level while completing academic requirements for a high school diploma. And then they’re ready for their career in dance. However, what happens when someone discovers their passion for dance later on in life?

Some places offer beginner adult classes. Most are eight weeks long and have no end performance. That seems reasonable, considering most adults taking dance classes are not interested in being in the spotlight and don’t have the time or money to commit to it.

Dance classes for university students can be more difficult to find. They’re too old to join “teen” classes aimed at late-comers, but they’re too young to join adult classes. Thankfully, VIU does offer one dance class—hip hop—and the university is open to offering more if the interest builds and instructors are available. The problem is that once a beginner class is taken, there are no more advanced classes to move on to.

Tammy Galvin from Harbour Dancentre suggests that the idea is for beginner classes to move on to the next level together. Then a new class of beginners is created, and each year every class moves up, and various levels are created. She recognizes, though, that does not necessarily happen, likely because of a lack of commitment. She notes that Nanaimo’s dance scene seems to be more structured than other cities’, and if a dancer doesn’t fit into a specific category, it’s hard to integrate themselves into the community.

Crimson Coast Dance Society offers various solutions to these problems.

Crimson Coast Dance Society is dedicated to creating opportunities related to performing arts, educating people on, and exposing people to dance. The Society was created in 1992 by artistic director Holly Bright after she moved to Nanaimo and discovered there wasn’t a prominent dance scene despite interest from the community. She then made it her goal to help establish and contribute to a dancing community and has been doing so ever since.

A big step forward, she notes, was Vibe Dance Studio, as they not only introduced hip hop to Nanaimo, but opened the doors more for men to join dance. She also mentions that having six performing dance professionals in Nanaimo was a notable change, since there were none before. These performing dance professionals have built audiences, which is a main goal of theirs. Not only do they perform, but they also teach. Classes don’t usually cater to a specific group—they’re open to any age, any level, and every single dancer walks out with something new.

Bright encourages others to help contribute to the dance community as well. She would like to see more dancers creating their own artistic events. One way of doing this is through one of their biggest programs: Body Talk. The program is aimed for youth aged 13-21. Youth meet approximately every week between October and May, preparing for the final Body Talk Project during spring break. They learn arts administration, curation, event planning, marketing, and technical production. Rehearsing and performing are part of it as well.

Performance is an important aspect of dance, says Bright. It takes a lot of courage to take something personal and emotional and perform it in front of an audience. There are some things a dancer won’t learn until they perform. There are also some things a dancer won’t learn until they’ve been doing it for 30 years.

To anyone passionate about dance and looking to follow their passion, Bright says that one of the most important things is to first notice your passion. Then do it, enjoy it, excel at it. Dedicate yourself to it. Keep training. Do research and find out where you want to go, what you want to do, who you want to work with. But make sure to mind your obsession.

Nanaimo has a growing, evolving community, with organizations such as Crimson Coast Dance Society to help people find their place in the world of dance. However, as always, more changes need to be made to help include more people, such as the advanced beginners, but these changes cannot be made without the support of others.