A former school turned dance studio is once again hosting classes as the Cowichan Valley School District has created an academy for students who want to pursue performing arts classes alongside their academics.
The Cowichan Valley Dance Academy opened its doors this fall in collaboration with Adagé Studio, creating new opportunities for students in grades 8-12 who are interested in dance, regardless of background.
“There’s a misconception that you have to be a dancer,” said Adagé co-owner Emily Clements. “We have entry-level programs for kids who don’t have experience but just want to dance.”
About 80 percent of students this year have a dance background, and the largest group is Level 3, which consists of students with eight or more years of dance experience. Some, but not all, students are also involved in dance outside of school, but all school credit is earned between 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.
This co-ed dance academy is based at Adagé’s studio on Cairnsmore Street, and Adagé provides the teachers for the dance lessons, but not all students who participate in dance outside of school dance with Adagé.
While other school districts have dance academies, SD79 is unique in that classes are held in a dedicated dance studio.
“Ours has the advantage of being in a dance studio as opposed to dance teachers who go to a school,” said Adagé co-owner Olivia Boudreau.
SD79 Director of Instruction Larry Mattin played a pivotal role in supporting the need expressed by Ann Kissinger, Kevin van der Linden of the Cowichan School District alongside Clements and Boudreau as they saw many families trying to balance academics with busy after-school life. many students lead.
There is room for 30 students in the coeducational academy and 22 places are currently occupied. Students take their academic classes in the morning and dance in the afternoon.
Social studies classes are supervised by Ashley MacLeod, who teaches social studies and English in the first part of the week, while Jeffrey Webster teaches math and science in the second part. Education follows the provincial curriculum, with what MacLeod describes as a “differentiated approach,” catering to all levels with a multidisciplinary orientation based on projects and guided by students’ personal interests. Students can create their own projects and have some freedom to set their own deadlines.
“This program really aligns with the new curriculum to support student success and does an amazing job in that regard,” MacLeod said. “It’s a well-balanced and robust program. This is a unique and wonderful opportunity for children.
MacLeod actually had a dance background, starting at age seven or eight until she branched out into other performing arts at age 16. She then returned to dancing around the age of 22.
In addition to dance and traditional academics, Adagé’s facilities allow academy students to take private music lessons during the day, including guitar, piano, voice, drums, songwriting of songs and recording.
“Having a range of performing arts classes available meets many student needs that they can’t access in a traditional school,” Boudreau said. “These children have the opportunity to explore their interests.”
The performing arts provide an outlet for children, the academy’s creators point out, which has proven even more vital during the COVID-19 pandemic. They are grateful to the school board for helping to create the new school.
“This program allows students to combine academics with their passion,” Clements said. “It’s great that we have a school board that supports the performing arts and recognizes the need for a program like this in our valley. »