Arts + Culture

Dancing Through Strife

I was inspired to start dancing after seeing Bandstand on Broadway. After that it was quick, falling for dance, and in the week before I actually started lessons, I spent every spare moment on Google and YouTube searching Lindy Hop videos until I thought my eyes were going to fall out. I began lessons at a weird time in my life. I had just graduated university and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life. It was something fun to do, something to get my mind off of the turbulent situation I was in.

I didn’t realize the impact that dance would have on my life. After one year of dance, after performing and competing, I can safely say that it’s one of the smartest decisions I’ve made in my life, and a great way to help deal with my anxiety. Anxiety is something I have always struggled with and try to work on all the time. Dance really helped with that.

Dancing has made me be more social, more daring, and more confident. In a weird way, it’s changed the way I look at life. There is a huge difference between taking dance classes as a kid—I took about ten years’ worth of dance as a kid, plus musical theatre in high school—and doing it as an adult. I’ve been really lucky to have teachers who are committed to fostering a love for dance.

Pegasus Dance and Art Centre has been an institution on the Danforth since 1986. Focusing on a holistic approach to dance, Jane Davis-Munro, has been teaching students for forty years. “We don’t teach kids to be great dancers, we teach dancers to be great kids,” Davis-Munro said. She and her mother started Pegasus with preschool programs and it has now grown to hold Ballet, Tap, Jazz, and Hip-Hop classes, as well as music and art classes for all ages! Pegasus strives to teach their students how to be confident leaders and conscientious individuals in their community. Knowing how dance can impact and shape a life, Davis-Munro calls Pegasus’ way of teaching a holistic approach to dance, that teaches students values like empathy, emotion, and inclusion. Not only are Pegasus’ students in tune with their community, they are taught to extend their talents to the world.

Joy of Dance Centre, with a wide range of classes from Jazz, Lyrical to West Coast Swing, and musical theatre, is a place that instructor, Kimberly Pilc, sees as a landmark in the Danforth community. “It’s a life stop,” Pilc says. Her assistant, and former student Ayaka Tani agrees. “I feel like all the kids in this neighborhood mostly have ended up here or dropped by here,” Tani adds. To Pilc, dance truly is her life and that she sees Joy of Dance as a family. The centre provides a place for students as young as three to grow and foster their love of dance well into adulthood.

Eighteen-year-old Tani has been attending Joy of Dance for eight years. “Well, I feel like anyone who knows me outside of here knows that I’m generally shy, quiet. But … when I’m dancing I don’t really have to be that kid,” she says and points Pilc out as her dance role model. As an instructor who has been at Joy of Dance for the past twelve years, Pilc has seen her students grow and move on. She feels that the studio is different from others because they aren’t just a competition studio. In her words, Joy of Dance also gives students the skills to “use dance and connect that to their heart and soul so when life gets crazy, everybody has a place to balance and check, and make the bad times not so bad.”

I don’t know when it clicked for me. I started classes and I started going to social dances and then I never looked back. The change within me was gradual, but I didn’t see it until other people started telling me how confident I was. I thought I was largely myself, but with one change: all I did was talk about swing dance. But once my friends and people I met started commenting on how I changed, I realized it too.

Through dance, I was able to find a part of myself that had been hidden for so long. It’s a way for me to connect to the world in ways I couldn’t have even imagined possible. It’s opened up a whole new world of possibilities and changed me for the better. I’m glad that something I did mainly on a whim has impacted my life so profoundly, and I am glad to see students learning and growing in the same way I have in the Danforth.

Nekesa Mbadiwe is a publishing student at Centennial College who enjoys good tunes and dancing.

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