Dance academy

Airdrie Dance Academy celebrates its 30th anniversary with a dance recital

Dancers aged four to 18 took to the stage at two birthday shows last weekend dancing in styles ranging from jazz, tap, hip-hop, musical theatre, ballet, contemporary and from the tip.

The Airdrie Dance Academy celebrated its 30th anniversary with a special community dance day at the weekend.

About 130 dancers took to the stage in two separate but identical shows on May 1 – the 30th anniversary “FOLLIES 2022” at the Bert Church LIVE Theater.

Susan Laing, owner/artistic director/instructor of the Airdrie Dance Academy, said it was actually her 40th year as a dance teacher. She started teaching in Stettler, moved to Calgary, then to Airdrie 30 years ago, where she opened the Airdrie Dance Academy.

With the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic over the past two-plus years, Laing said dancing on stage this past weekend was an amazing way to celebrate the milestone anniversary.

“We didn’t know if we would be on stage again with COVID-19,” she said ahead of the May Day event. “We were afraid to plan anything because we just weren’t sure. This performance [was] just one big huge party.

The show, titled Follies 2022, followed the format of a recital. Laing said when she started teaching 40 years ago, she called those shows “Foster’s Follies” because Foster was her maiden name at the time.

Dancers aged four to 18 danced in styles ranging from jazz, tap, hip-hop, musical theatre, ballet, contemporary and pointe on May Day.

Over the past 30 years, the academy’s growth has followed Airdrie’s growth, Laing noted.

“We have always been very fortunate to have great support from Airdrie and the region,” she said.

What’s cool about being in business for so long, she added, is that they’re now a multi-generational dance school. Some of his current students are the children of his first students 30 years ago.

“We are family-oriented and family-oriented. One of the girls babysitting my son was one of my first teenage jazz dancers. Her daughter is now 12 and her little brother is also coming to dance next year,” she said.

The academy has a boys-only program, and Laing said they were top-of-the-age superstars in their division for all three competitions they entered this season.

Earlier this year, Laing was a little worried about whether the competitive season would go ahead after it was canceled two years in a row.

A week before a competition in 2020, COVID-19 hit, causing the dance troupe to miss their stage time. The following year, they regrouped, reused old costumes and attempted to relearn their 2020 routines, but the competitions were canceled again.

Laing’s studio season ends after April, but they continued for another month in 2021 just to try and get on stage.

Despite a dedicated and focused group of students, class attendance took a hit after Christmas and in January this year, with so many sick children.

Their luck finally changed when the Airdrie Dance Academy attended three Danceworks competitions in March and April.

“We pulled it off, we had our record competitive season,” Laing said, which meant great turnout during the competitive season and a lot of hard work that was rewarded by the judges.

“I saw a lot of strong teamwork. Everyone was so happy to be at the theater. The parents were happy, the children were happy, they were happy to dance with their teammates. It was just amazing after what we all went through.

The dancers proved their worth in these three competitions according to Laing, winning numerous gold and platinum medals.

Top bands were invited to perform at Showdown, where top dancers were honoured, Laing explained. Airdrie Dance Academy’s senior hip-hop team won the grand champion in the first two competitions for the 13+ category and the senior jazz band won the same honor in their third competition.

“My little boys, my Walk the Dinosaur class – they’re 6-11 year old hip-hop boys who dance for half an hour once a week – they got the highest rating out of hundreds of entries,” said Laing. “They came second in the first competition and the second competition. They are very consistent and they work hard.

Beyond competition season and the Airdrie Dance Academy, many students have their sights set on the future of dance. A graduating student in 2021 is auditioning for Disney this year, while several others are preparing to enter college dance programs.

“We teach more than dance, so they’ve gone on to very successful careers,” Laing said of his students. “They were good at public speaking and went out into the world with confidence.”

For more information or to register for the next dance season, go to airdriedance.ca.