In the world of social dancing, learning and excelling on the dance floor is kind of a badge of honor. At first you are too shy to ask anyone better than you dance then a zillion hours later (only slight hyperbole), you are throwing down with the best of them. For a left side brain learner like me though, there was no way I was going to learn just by going social dancing every now and then. At best, I was knocking over follows less regularly as i would get used to the “move of the week”.
I have a confession – I am a studio dancer. Ack, I know. I used to balk at them too. However, I learn the fastest when someone a lot more knowledgeable/talented than me is telling me what I am doing wrong (usually the case). My fondest memories in dance have been sweating it out at the likes of Harbour Dance(VanCity), Scotia Bank Dance Centre(VanCity), Broadway Dance Centre (NY), You Should Be Dancing (NY) and Mad for Dance Studios (Toronto). I figure if I mess up enough times at the studio, I wouldn’t be so surprised when I mess up on the dance floor or just hopefully mess up even less.
So let me tell where the Yonge & Bloor studio fits in.
As you may know, last fall, my good friends NaYoung and Kevin opened up an international school and in the back, a inconspicuous dance studio right near the intersection of Yonge & Bloor (and above Starbucks). Immediately, I got really excited about the prospects of having a centralized studio for my friends and I to practice and take classes.
So why is the studio good for the Toronto scene?
Bees Knees Dance Teachers – Shannon, Jasper, and owner Mandi Gould.
Consistent Location to Find Dance Classes
In an ideal world, there would be a “Cats Corner” type studio in Toronto for lindy hoppers. That’s a crazy studio (in a good way). There are couches, a dedicated place to change and keep your clothes, a decent size dance studio, and a television thats playing swing clips on a non-stop loop. Thats just talking about the decor and space of the building. They also have consistent classes on a weekly basis and a weekly friday night dance. KILLER!
While the Yonge & Bloor studio is no way, shape, or form anywhere near Cats Corner in Montreal, it is on its way to achieving the first steps to forming a really solid community based around a studio.
Currently right now at the studio, there are beginner lindy hop, intermediate lindy hop, rock and roll, blues, and sometimes there are yoga classes and west coast swing sessions. Several dance schools operate out of there already such as Bees Knees and Lulu Hop.
One of the biggest hurdles in my opinion in growing a scene is allowing interested individuals and newbies to easily find classes to take. Seems pretty simple and no brainer right? You would be surprised though at how scarce dance studio space and time is in Toronto. Schools (mambo/hip hop/swing) here in Toronto often have to juggle around their classes at various studios on different dates of the week. That blows goats. It confuses customers and gives them just one additional reason not to come to a dance class.
Having a consistent location for dance classes will encourage existing students to come out more often and if the stars align, an increasing amount of potential new dancers on a monthly basis. This is good for Toronto because we need an influx of new blood and energy in the scene.
You Can Drop by Anytime it’s Open
I would go bananas if I could hang out at the studio with other dancers while I’m waiting around to teach or take a class. Imagine a place you knew that other dancers might be during the afternoon and evening. Conversations can take place and ideas shared easier because there is already a common reason as to why everyone is in the dance studio in the first place – to get better in dancing. It’s all about creating a strong community instead of having “commuter dancers”.
For most people, dancing is a social activity. Not everyone aspires to be a hardcore dancers LIKE US. While we secretly hope we can convert everyone we meet to dance fanatics, having a nice balance of casual dancers, hardcore dancers, and beginners is the key to having a really thriving scene. If you allow more opportunities for that social interaction and people can associate social partner dancing with meeting great people and having a great time, a percentage of them would undoubtably become fanatics :)
It’s Owned By People in “the Scene”
The money you pay for rental or classes goes directly to the studio owners (Na-Young/Kevin) and the dance company owners (Mandi or Arthur/Heather). This makes me feel a lot better dropping down the cash than to some random dance studio owner.
I have nothing but respect for people who lay it on the line and take a chance in the dance business. It’s handwork and more often than not, will not be a huge source of revenue. They do it though because they love it and they love the scene, even with all its faults. That is something that I can believe in.