Q&A with Erin Schoorlemmer, Director of the Spirit Arts Dance Society

Spirit Arts Dance Society dancers entertained a group of parents, friends and guests on May 11, 2019 in Fairview during its Year-end Recital. // The Central Peace Signal File Photo

How long has Spirit Arts Dance been around?
Our dance club was started in 2000 by Carmen Graham and then became the parent-run club it is today in 2006 with the name Spirit Arts Dance Society. Through the years there have been over 800 dancers go through our doors. We have danced in the Community Hall and Legion Hall in Spirit River, and now our home in the Rycroft Ag Center. Through cooperation with the Rycroft Ag Society, we have a beautiful dance studio with a sprung floor upstairs in its building. We are a non-profit, parent-run organization that offers dance classes in our community. We have dancers from all of the G5 communities. We have around 50 dancers that dance in the year.

Where does the name come from?
The name reflects the community it started in, the art of dance and the fact that it is a non-profit Society.

What types of dance do you offer?
We offer classes in Ballet, Tap, Jazz, Hip Hop, Lyrical, Contemporary, Intro to Dance and Creative Movement.

Is there an age range?
Our classes are for ages 4-18. Creative Movement is an introductory class for 4-5 year olds. Intro to Dance is a Jazz/Tap combination class for 5-6 year olds. Ballet, Tap Jazz and Hip Hop are for ages 6-18 (We have three levels of each dance this season, depending on the age and experience of the dancer). Lyrical and Contemporary are for ages 8-18.

What are the qualifications of the instructors?
We have three lovely instructors.

  • Miss Shannon is our Tap specialist and is going into her fifth year of teaching with us. She trained in Grande Prairie with Deborah Judt School of Dance and Monie Desmarais School of Dance. She will be teaching Tap, Contemporary, Intro to Dance and Creative Movement.
  • Miss Sarah is our Ballet specialist and is in her second year of teaching with us after completing her post-secondary schooling. She danced with our club for two years and also trained in RAD Ballet at the Grande Prairie Dancers Academy. She has also studied at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet for summer programs. She teaches Ballet, Lyrical, Jazz this year.
  • Miss Jaycee is a former dancer with our club, graduating in 2018. She has been dancing since 2005 in a plethora of different genres. She teaches Hip Hop instructor this year as well as some Jazz.

In addition to our senior instructors, we have dancers who are 12 years or older who volunteer to mentor the younger dancers. These mentors help the senior instructors in the classes and learn to give back through their volunteering. It is a great way to connect our older dancers to our new and young dancers.

How are students placed?
Students are placed according to their age and dance experience in each genre.

How long is each class?
Most classes are for one hour once a week. Ballet 2 and 3 run for 1 ½ hours.

Are dance lessons good for kids?
Dance classes are great. Every genre teaches children something. Listening to music and learning how to move to it can only benefit a person. Dance makes a person feel good.

Do you offer a free trial class?
We ask all to register in what they want to dance in. For the two weeks in September, we allow them to change their minds. If they want to try a different class, they can switch. If they decide dance is not for them, they may withdraw with a full refund before October 1.

Are there recitals?
We always have a Year-end Recital in May. We host it in Fairview at the College Theatre, which makes it a special setting for the dancers. This year the Recital is May 9, 2020, with shows at 11am and 4pm. The dancers also attend two festivals near the end of dance season. This is where they go on stage and perform their dance for an adjudicator to receive some feedback on their dances. Most dancers love to get their dance costumes on, hair and makeup done and perform on the big stage.

Are tickets free for a dancer’s family members at recitals?
As we are a non-profit society, we do charge for our year-end recital to help cover our costs. The tickets are $10 each.

Do you have costume fees?
Our dance society buys our costumes. We have a costume deposit fee of $50/dance for the dancers. This fee is returned to parents if the costumes are returned to us in good shape. Thanks to the generosity of the Listhaeghe Family for our costume closet space. We store our costumes and reuse them. Generally, half of our classes dance in reused costumes. This makes economic and environmental sense.

What if my child simply loves dance classes but is not coordinated at all, are classes about fun?
We are a recreational dance club, so we are about having fun with dance. Dance and movement help improve children’s coordination. You would be amazed what children can learn when they let themselves move to the music.

If I am worried about investing in clothes and shoes as my child is growing like a weed, do you have a program that allows to buy-sell used dance outfits and dance shoes?
We, as a studio, for costumes for the festivals and recitals. So this cuts out the expense of costumes. For everyday dance wear and shoes, we always encourage our families to pass on their shoes and dance wear. Parents will post on our Facebook page clothing and shoes that their dancers have grown out of and are selling. If parents want to give away dance shoes, we have a big bin at the studio that they can put their shoes in and other dancers are welcome to take.

Is dance just for girls or are there boys taking dance as well?
We welcome boys to our classes. We go in waves of having boys and not having boys. We have a few new boys this year. Five years ago, we had a whole Hip Hop class of boys. Hip Hop seems to be the dance most of them are drawn to. All the dances are for boys and girls.

Finally, do parents have to commit to volunteering? Fundraising? Driving kids to recitals?
As we are a parent-run society, we do need parents to commit to helping out. Our executive is all volunteer parents and are elected at the AGM in September. This executive, with the help of many other parents, keeps the club going. There are jobs through the dance season that we need parents to help organize: picture night, recital, fundraising, publicity, costumes and more. And, yes, there is fundraising. We usually do two fundraisers a year. This year we have an extra fundraiser, as our Society Casino is scheduled for October 4-5. This is a huge fundraiser for us, as it helps with our costumes and expenses for the next three years.