With one lease ending soon, the RNB Dance and Theatre Arts Society is planning on doubling its studio space in Lynn Valley. The community-based not-for-profit is hoping the community will lend a hand to help it grow.
Local arts booming
A plan is afoot for RNB Dance to take over the former Blue Shore space at The Valley Centre.
“We have been looking for years,” said Brianna Giles, principal and artistic director of the RNB Dance and Theatre Arts Society. “We found lots of spaces in the industrial parts of North Vancouver but that wasn’t what we needed.”
RNB has noticed an interesting trend over the last few years. And it all began with a major provincial infrastructure project.
“We got a lot of intakes when the highway construction at the Iron Workers [Memorail] Bridge began,” she said. “Families could no longer get to studios in Deep Cove or Lonsdale easily. Families are so busy sitting in traffic for an hour and a half just wasn’t feasible.”
The studio’s strong reputation for quality family programs had already led to an expansion at Lynn Valley Village (a lease which wraps up this year) but despite the added space, its less-than-ideal layout made it imperfect for growing demand.
“There are two posts in those studios that limit our class sizes.”
The society never stopped looking and exploring other options.
“We have gotten feedback from our families that they love how central our studio spaces are. We know families are looking for dance. With all the condos being built in Lynn Valley we are seeing more inquiries than ever for three- to five-year-olds.”
For more than two years RNB has been working behind the scenes to develop its expansion plan around the new space.
“The size is a dream come true!” said Giles. “We will be able to add two additional larger studios, similar to our Mountain Hwy studios for classes of 20 kids. We got in first to see the space right away and knew it would work. [Now] with the bank removed, it is a blank slate. We have to put in a few walls for change rooms and the dance floors.”
With the hope to open in September of 2023 the RNB Dance and Theatre is kicking off a fundraising campaign.
Affordable family options
Unlike most dance studios, RNB is a not-for-profit society.
“We are unique,” said Giles. “It means we can keep our fees lower and more accessible, it also means we can access some provincial funding, but all that money goes back into the studio. There is no owner taking a profit. Everyone who dances with us is a member. Everyone who is working or volunteering with us is doing it for the kids.”
It is a choice that has given more students access to dance than would otherwise be possible, but it does create some challenges.
“We can’t use dance fees to cover renovations,” she explained. “We are having our biggest-ever fundraising drive.”
The society is aiming to raise $450,000 – and provide charitable tax receipts – to cover the expansion.
“Every little bit helps. We are hoping with the expansion that we can probably double the number of dancers.”
The society plans to display all donor names on a plaque in the new studio lobby with a range of donation tiers: Bronze Donors – $25 – $5000, Silver Donors – $5001 – $10,000, Gold Donors – $10,001 – $25,000, and with Platinum Donors – any donation over $25,000 – also being given naming opportunities of the new spaces.
The society’s long-term plan aims to build on the successful partnerships it already has.
“We get asked all the time by people wanting to rent our space – there is a need for community studio spaces,” said Giles.
The society already shares its space with Lamondance a performance dance company which uses the RNB space mornings and early afternoons when most RNB dancers are in school.
“It’s an excellent partnership – they invite RNB dancers to participate in their performances.”
For the last 10 years, RNB has also been supporting the North Vancouver School District’s Peak Performance Program that allows high school students to balance elite-level dance training with their high school education, said Giles.
The little studio that could
RNB began more than three decades ago at the – then – Hendry Ave YMCA in 1989 – where Giles was one of the first students. In 1993 it was able to negotiate with the District of North Vancouver for a former church space on Mountain Highway which has become its main studio ever since.
“Mountain Hwy will remain our home base for as long as the District will have us. We are known best for being welcoming to families and we don’t want that to change,’ said Giles.
With recreational programming that starts dancers moving as young as two years old, RNB has helped guide dancers into international competitions and professional companies.
“For me, it’s amazing to see the growth and change,” said Giles who first came through the doors of RNB as a child and has gone on to dance all over the world, returning to teach in Lynn Valley. “I am now seeing my students from 10 – 15 years ago, bringing in their own kids. It’s cool to see that full circle – that RNB has been so important to them.”
But it’s also Lynn Valley’s growth that is motivating the society to plan for the future.
“There are so many new families moving to Lynn Valley – they want to dance and I want people to know that we are unique. Donations to the studio go back into the community offering more spaces for students.”