Wild About Dance
When the Generation Dance Studio first opened their doors back in Fort McMurray in 1999, they only had approximately 60 dancers. Over the years, they have become a household name and the GDS dancers have been seen in numerous Keyano Theatre productions, as well as in dance competitions. Today, they hold over 90 classes every week with the majority of their dancers participating in two – or more – genres. “We provide quality dance education along with community involvement,” says Generation Dance Studio’s Artistic Director Kim Hurley. “There are many facilities in this city, all of which have great things to offer, but Generation Dance prides itself on its long history of successful students and happy clientele. We operate very much like a family. All of our parents are involved as much as possible and we couldn’t do it without them, our families are an active and visible part of our facility and we encourage that.”
Kim herself is an extremely experienced choreographer and dance instructor who specializes in all genres of dance. With extensive training from all across North America - including Los Angeles, New York and Las Vegas - she has worked on choreography for several schools in Alberta, as well as being the Artistic Director for the “Northern Dance Off” festival, which takes place in different cities each time. The Generation Dance Studio offers a wide arrange of classes taught by seven instructors, some of which focuses on several different genres while others specialize in specific styles. The classes span from a Tiny Tot program, an extensive ballet curriculum with both recreational and examination options, jazz, Hip Hop, tap dance and both lyrical and contemporary classes. “We provide a training program that enables students to feel confident and able to express themselves in a positive nurturing environment,” Kim says and goes on to explain that even the dancers in the recreational program trains with the Competitive Dance Instructors, ensuring that the same expertise is implemented to all of the dance students. “We have seen an increase in the technical ability of our recreational dancers because of this practice,” she says “and I enjoy watching our staff create and achieve accolades from various performances as well as their relationship with the dancers.”
However, the technical aspect of dancing is only one of the many things taught at Generation Dance. “We provide students with appropriate choreography and class experience,” says Kim, but adds that “we consider the dancer as a whole our number one priority! For most, Generation Dance Studio is like a second home, and we help to implement positive role modelling between older and younger dancers. The kids just love it here.” Some of her proudest moments from her time at the studio comes from watching the dancers excel at their craft and move on to become great individuals with skills that are, says Kim, “much more valuable than just dance”. Kim got to experience the strength of her dancers first hand during the evacuation last year. Not only did several GDS dancers perform at the Kick It Up Dance Competition with a tribute dance called “McMurray Strong”, but their year-end show was originally scheduled for May and ended up cancelled due to the wildfire. This did not stop the Generation Dance dancers, who rallied over the summer and took the stage by storm with their performances in the love themed show “LOVE… I DO” that had everything from jazz and tap to hip hop and modern dance, to the romantic ballet Cinderella. “The strength and courage that all of the GDS dancers carried with them while we evacuated, as well as when we came home and completed our Year End Show” enthuses Kim, “that to me, will stick as the proudest and most memorable part of my Studio. So much so that this season, and seasons going forward, we have titled our studio hashtag #gdsstrong.”
One of the most public ways that Generation Dance Studio helps boost the confidence and feeling of pride in their dancers is their campaign “Dancer of the Week”. Originally initiated by one of the GDS instructors, Miss Melinda Richter, the campaign is designed to both make the dancer feel great and confident, and also work as clever marketing for the studio. As the name implies, once every week the faculty takes turns choosing a dancer of the week. Come Sunday evening, the instructors stealthily place the now familiar “Dancer of the Week” sign on the chosen dancer’s front lawn, who wakes up the next morning and is surprised and delighted.
The studio and its dancers are not only familiar faces to the people within the dancing community, but also for those who frequently enjoy the shows at Keyano Theatre. “Every other season I take on a contract with Keyano Theatre Company to choreograph their musical for that year” explains Kim. She choreographed All Shook Up in 2011, followed in 2013 by the Fort McMurray-based Hometown… The Musical, in which she also made her acting debut. In recent years, Kim was the choreographer for their hugely successful productions of Cabaret and Footloose The Musical. “I encourage my dancers to audition and be a part of the process,” says Kim and goes on to say that “it might be a huge commitment, as rehearsals for a musical of that size take up a lot of time and energy for up to three months, but it is so rewarding! Not only do they gain expertise in the theatre world and acting, but they take on other arts such as singing as well! We have a fantastic relationship with the local theatre, and get nothing but positive feedback from the dancers, Keyano Theatre, and the community!”
The future is looking bright for the popular and constantly developing dance studio, as they are currently busy working on their summer show named Going Wild - a show that highlights all things animal. During the show, they are also accepting donations and holding a silent auction that will be raising funds for the local SPCA. The studio is also hosting a Summer Dance Intensive in July at Keyano Theatre, for dancers of all levels in the community. Several dancers will also be travelling to Long Beach, Los Angeles, British Columbia and various training facilities in Alberta this summer to perfect their dancing skills. To top it off, they are planning a trip to New York to perform on Broadway and Times Square the summer of 2018. “To say that we are constantly busy is an understatement!” laughs Kim, who has no plans on leaving the community anytime soon. “Generation Dance will continue to be a part of Fort McMurray for many, many decades to come,” she says, “ I plan on staying in this community as a Dance Educator and Artistic Director until my body tells me to move on! I get to do what I love. I go to work and it’s not work, it’s my family. Sure, we have ups and downs but in the end, all of the Generation Dance Studio dancers and parents hold a special place in my heart for supporting me and allowing me to guide them through dance.”