Every time I walk up the steep two storeys of stairs to the top floor of my dance studio, Harbour Dance Centre in downtown Vancouver, I pass by all the other studios and the masses of dancers waiting for their class to begin.
It’s not a huge stretch to draw similarities between the dance studio and the New York City High School for the Performing Arts of Fame (the original series), what with them both residing in the middle of the city (the neon marquees of the Granville Street “Entertainment District” are just outside the ballet studio windows) and the colourful elements the school attracts. Every class runs a little late so we’re piled altogether in a cramped waiting area, practically on top of each other, ballet students elbow-to-elbow with the hip hoppers. Of course, I’m the snobby ballerina with my nose in the air, trying to ignore the rambunctious chatter.
A Best of Vancouver 2009 award is prominently displayed and you can see that HDC has taken the top spot for Georgia Straight reader’s choice in at least three of the past five years.
I am very fortunate to have formal training at two proper dance schools in Halifax, Halifax Dance Association and the Maritime Conservatory of Performing Arts (née Maritime Conservatory of Music), because the personalization of instruction at HDC is… kind of non-existent. It is a little better if you manage to build up a relationship with the instructor.
However, I know why it keeps getting voted the best in Vancouver. Not only is there an overrepresentation of youthful and trendy dance styles instruction offered1, the ballet classes are not the least bit threatening.
I mean, the major concern regarding going to ballet class is not so different from going to a swim class:
- “Will I look fat?” In dance class, there’s no water to hide your body and mirrors everywhere confirm your fears.
- “Is my outfit up to par?” I’ve seen everything on everyone by now.2
- “Will they all know I’m a total newbie and being staring at me?” Sure, they’ll know, but people are too busy angling their heads to watch themselves in the mirrors or concentrating on mastering the choreography to stare at the newbie.
A former co-worker, Sherry, started up dancing a few years ago, a long-time and until-then unfulfilled passion of hers. There is a another dance company downtown, Dance Nouveau, that is the more ballet-focused and proper dance school for adults. How proper? They have a clearly outlined no-nonsense dress code: “Ballet: Female: Solid colour bodysuit, leggings/tights, ballet slippers for all ballet classes. Male: Solid colour dance shirt/leotard with solid colour dance leggings and black/white ballet slippers.” That sounds so intense I’m scared to go for a drop-in class even after getting my ballet legs back.
What do I wear? I am really happy wearing a black leotard with thick straps and slight rouching to form a sweetheart neckline, pink ballet tights, slim black shorts, pink ballet shoes, and hair pulled back in a no-nonsense high ponytail. It’s practically the traditional ballerina wear with the addition of the shorts–it looks like I’m wearing a maillot. I also think I’m deluding myself but have come to think pale pink tights are really slimming!
Despite some of my grown-up angst, I keep returning to Harbour Dance because the heterogeneity is exhilarating and the studio is very conveniently located just one block off a major downtown intersection, a nice half-hour walk from my house. I buy a year-long membership ($30) that entitles me to discounted prices on single classes and class cards. Now that I’ve gone through 2 10-class cards, I’ve just purchased a 20-class card to get the best per-class rate.
These days, I’ve even branched out to modern dance but that’s another post for another day.
1 According to their schedule: Hip-hop, lyrical jazz, street jazz, belly dancing, all varieties of sexy dancing (Pussycat Dolls and several kinds of burlesque including Broadway, Rock’N’Roll, and bellydancing), popping, grooving, waacking, break dance, locking, boogaloo, video dance, and house.
2 There’s a lanky blonde who wears all black despite it getting really warm in the studio no matter which season, and her blonde hair is set off by the black attire so nicely. Then there’s the frizzy-haired matron who wore a lilac bra top who should have covered her thick waist and, to top it off, wore matching lilac capri pants. There’s the pointe girls who drop-in to intro classes with their shiny pink shoes who can relevé like none of us can, ranging from 2% body fat ballerina stature to average body types. There’s leg-warmers and slim and baggy shorts and slouchy HDC sweat pants worn and some people wear socks instead of ballet shoes! Of course, there are lots and lots of Lululemon tops and bottoms.