Tell me a bit about you!
I have been an English teacher for about 20 years and have been dancing for roughly the same amount time. I live in East Vancouver with my partner. I have no kids, so I have lots of time to dance [smiles].
Cool. So what is it that you like about dance?
I always loved to dance, even as a child. I think it’s something you’re born with. I used to dance around the house as a kid, thinking I was a prima ballerina even though I couldn’t do ballet very well. But I always loved to dance and since a lot of my family members are black, I grew up listening to R&B, Motown and Jackson 5 and all that kind of music. My aunt, my cousins and I used to just dance around their living room free-style and have little contests, so I grew up with a lot of dance in my life. I think my aunt really inspired my love of dance.
How long have you been taking dance classes for?
I was trying to figure that out. I danced a little bit of ballet as a child, but then I went into gymnastics instead. As an adult, I started taking dance again in my late twenties when I began studying the regional dances of Recife, which is a city in Brazil. I did a couple of performances in Brazil as well. When I came back from Brazil, I started dancing at community centres, learning ballet and trying to get my technique down. Then I moved on to Harbour Dance at 31. Before too long, I was dancing a lot... I was doing five classes a week at one point!
I was mostly doing jazz, but then I’d always do one hip hop class a week.
[Laughs] And I also did urban jazz for a bit and modern, but mostly I just did jazz, or what they would call contemporary jazz now. I started with Pam Rosa, who owns Harbour Dance, and she basically taught me all the moves, the repertoire of jazz, and then I started taking Joanne’s class. I did her advanced jazz class for many years even though it was always challenging for me. Around 2009, I stopped dancing altogether…all these things happened in my life, and I just stopped dancing completely. I was still going to the gym though, so I was in reasonably good shape. Then I heard about the iDance studio through a friend and I thought, “Wow, maybe I’ll give it a try.” I did Roberta’s Friday hip hop class on a $10 drop in, and I just loved it! And I really loved the studio, too. I bought the one-month unlimited pass, and I came about 400 times during that first month. I tried everything!
[Laughs] Oh my gosh! When was this?
It wasn’t too long ago, maybe 10 months ago.
Then I just threw myself back into dance, almost at the level that I used to dance at before, which was quite intense. But now the difference is that I’m not just doing jazz: I’m doing dancehall, house, contemporary, Bollywood, and some hip hop as well. I’m trying different types of dance that I’ve never done before, so that’s really fun. I have discovered that I really like Dancehall and House, which I had never even heard of before.
What is it that you like about them?
Well, they’re very different, but the teachers are both excellent, so that’s really helpful. Dancehall is very Caribbean. Given my background, I like Afrobeats of any sort, and just the whole style of it. It’s almost freeing in a certain way, you know? You don’t have to be pretty. It’s got that sort of attitude, which you get in hip hop as well, and I like that.
And then House is just really good practice, pinning down all that footwork. It’s lots of little steps that you have to commit to memory in a sequence, and I’ve never done anything like that in my life. Besides, Kyle just makes it so fun; he’s such a great teacher.
For sure, what do you like about him?
Kyle? He’s so observant, he’ll just look around the room, and he knows who’s in trouble yet he won’t say anything to them. He will help that person out and keep the class moving at the same time... he is a very skilled teacher and his flow is really good. He can break down things into simpler parts. I really like him as a teacher and as a person. I am really impressed by a lot of the teachers here to be honest.
Awesome! What do you think of iDance then, compared to other studios you’ve danced at?
I’d say this studio has a completely different vibe from many other studios. I really don’t feel any of that competitive vibe even though there are some really good dancers here.
It’s like a family here, isn’t it? Everyone is nice and talks to you. There’s a lot of familiarity here and collegiality. People don’t seem to be judging and comparing themselves with you or feeling jealous because you might be a better dancer. Well, I am used to being the worst one in class, so I don’t often get that anyway!
Oh come on, you’re great!
Sometimes I’m ok [laughs]. I find that the dancers here don’t really care. They’re not competitive. I didn’t form many connections at my previous studio, but interestingly, one of the few people who I did connect with was Colleen Cassidy, and now she’s a teacher here!
Oh really!? [Both laugh]. That’s awesome!
Yeah, she walked in here and I was like “I know you!”, and she was like, “I know you!” and we were like, “Remember when we used to dance in Joanne’s class!?” And you can’t get a friendlier person than Colleen. She’s just sweetness personified.
Yeah no kidding, we love her.
I actually danced with Kayli previously, too. So I feel like I know a few of the people in this dance community here. It’s nice to feel like I haven’t completely lost touch.
Any other little things that we don’t know about you?
Well, I also have a lot of physical issues and I hope teachers realize that it is not that I don’t want to do certain moves in their class--it is just that sometimes, I physically can’t. I have a chronic degenerative hip issue called FAI (femoroacetabular impingement), which is a condition where the femur wears down the cartilage in the hip socket until you get bone on bone, which leads to arthritis, which I have now. Some days it’s really bad. Some days I can’t do anything in second position or even walk, so I’ll just modify the move or have to leave the class. My hips are slowly getting worse and there is no cure for this condition. One day, I will get a hip replacement, which it isn’t a cure, but it will alleviate some of the pain.
Thanks for letting us know. Don’t worry though, the teachers want everyone to go at their own pace. They wouldn’t want you to hurt yourself! Are there other things you do in your spare time, I mean I know you’re at iDance all the time but…! [laughs]
Well, I love lifting weights, hiking, kayaking and being outdoors. I love nature, love dogs, and I’m definitely an environmentalist, a feminist, a humanitarian, and quite left wing, I would say. I’m a vegetarian and I love to cook. Also, I am an avid traveller and have been many wonderful places, most recently Japan. Even though I am a teacher by trade, I love doing renovations and property development: I look after the interior design, and my partner is a builder, so he can build whatever I envision. So that’s me in a nutshell.
Amazing. Anything else you would like to add?
I also just wanted to say that I think Amanda [Hemmaway] has done exceptional job of creating a really inclusive, friendly environment here at iDance, and that’s no small feat. I think that really needs to be said. The atmosphere here, and how inclusive it is, I think that it comes from the top down. I think Amanda has done that. For such a young woman, she’s so accomplished on so many levels.
That’s so sweet, we agree completely :)
I also wanted to say something about other teachers like Alyssa….her energy, she’s just such a beautiful person. She just draws people in. She makes dance so much fun! I always suggest her class to anyone who wants to start dancing because she’ll always make you feel at home, whether you can dance or not. Rae is a great teacher, too. I love her choice of music and how professional she is overall. She has mastered the art of teaching dance, that is for sure. The calibre of teachers here is extremely high. To me it’s so nice to get this quality of teachers for this price, with this community, and the atmosphere and everything else that goes along with it. I can’t recommend this studio highly enough! It is perfect and it brings me great joy to dance here.
Thank you so much Lisa!