A huge array of gleaming trophies sits on a ledge above the students warming up at the barre in RNB Dance’s Studio #2. But it isn’t the trophies that artistic director Hayley Walker is most proud of when she reflects upon the accomplishments of this dance school, now celebrating its 25-year-anniversary. It’s the family values that the dancers learn alongside their art.
“They don’t just come for the dance,” Hayley says when she’s asked why parents send their kids to the non-profit school. “They know that it takes a community to raise a child, and that we’re part of that community.”
That means fostering bonds of friendship among the dancers, and creating an atmosphere that builds self-esteem, confidence and good manners, though means as varied as taking the competition team away on trips together or teaching the students how to avoid the misuse of social media. Above all, Hayley and her staff want the dancers to come away with positive memories they’ll keep for life.
She’s also proud of the growth the dance school has experienced since three women founded it a quarter century ago (whose combined surname initials, by the way, were RNB!) After teaching its first students in the YMCA facility on Hendry, RNB Dance and Theatre Arts successfully applied for the lease of their current premises on Mountain Highway, a municipally owned facility they moved into in September 1993.
The main studio is in fact the old Methodist church building that was skidded across the playing field from its original home on Institute Road some decades ago. While longtime Lynn Valley residents will remember taking ballet lessons from Miss Hunter in the studio almost 50 years ago, they may not recognize the bright, renovated facility that now houses 300 students, who take classes in ballet, tap, jazz, contemporary and hip hop. Some take dance for an hour a week; some committed dancers are training in the studio 25 hours over that same time.
Hayley assures people that there are many entry points for dance, and that all kids are welcome, whether or not they started dance in early childhood. “Our teen classes have really grown,” she says. “Every year we need to put on a new teen beginner class.” She says there is a strong contingent of boys in the student population, too, which isn’t always the case in every school.
A good way to give dance a try is at the popular summer camps that are offered in July and August. The week-long camps offer a taste of a variety of dance genres, and different programs are available for kids four through 12. For more information on the summer programs, click here.
UPDATE: Register for 2014 fall programs on the following dates:
Saturday, July 26th- 2-6pm,
Friday, August 1st – 4-8pm
Saturday, August 23rd – 2-6pm
Monday, August 25th – 4-8pm
Wednesday, August 27th – 4-8pm