This story originally appeared in the September 2021 issue of Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine. Read the September issue here:
After a long summer of renovations, The Studio Dance and Wellness is finally opening their doors to dancers of all ages. Beyond filling the demand for a dance studio in town, they have a larger goal: creating a body-positive environment that nurtures physical and mental health.
Following the success of their Dance and Wellness Camp in August, dance classes at The Studio begin on Sept. 13. Tucked onto the corner of 1 Street E. and Victoria Road, The Studio is Revelstoke’s only space designed and built specifically for dancers. As explained by co-owners Jacqui Gardiner and Kenley Knock, this is a gamechanger for their students.
“We were dancing on concrete floors, which is not the best for our kids’ bodies,” explains Gardiner. “It came down to me and Kenley just wanting to give them the best we could, because we feel like they’re as committed as we are.”
Although there is a focus on childrens and competitive programming, The Studio also offers recreational and adult classes. Styles across the spectrum are available, including ballet, jazz, tap, lyrical and hip-hop. With five teachers on their opening roster, Gardiner says The Studio is interested in recruiting more certified instructors to include more types of dance.
Fighting negative body-image in the dance community
Beyond the barres and mirrors, there is a bigger mission that Gardiner and Knock strive to achieve. As indicated by the name, wellness is an important aspect of The Studio’s business model. For the dance world, this means addressing long standing issues with body image and mental health.
“I don’t think it’s a secret that in the dance community, there is a history of abusive language and practices in terms of body image,” states Knock, adding that both herself and Gardiner have firsthand experience of this treatment. For Knock, these issues followed her into her twenties, influencing her to approach a new teaching model.
“Instead of dance being a thing to recover from in your adulthood, it’s actually something that should lift you up and carry you forward through your adult life,” Knock elaborates. By working with wellness coaches and professionals, The Studio aims to create an environment that promotes consent and empowerment.
“[We are] teaching kids that this is their body, and that they have a choice,” explains Knock. As discussions around mental health in sports accelerate, Knock and Gardiner want to be part of the movement that prioritizes wellbeing over performance.
“It’s athletes everywhere. We saw a huge part of it in the Olympics this year, and it’s just coming out. There’s no way around it.”
Exploring the possibilities of the new space
In addition to creating a safe haven for dancers, The Studio offers a versatile space for all types of athletes. Although not quite trading ice skates for pointe shoes yet, the Revelstoke Grizzlies will be using The Studio for dryland training. After spending years shuffling between makeshift studios, Knock and Gardiner understand the struggle of finding commercial rentals.
“Having rented community spaces, it’s not top notch, and you get pushed around. If there’s somebody that’s spending more money, you get kicked out of your space,” says Knock, reminiscing on past experiences. By offering rental spaces, Knock hopes The Studio can help other organizations find a permanent home. “We’re trying to reach as much of the community as we can, specifically the youth of our community.”
After months of renovations, permits and headaches, Revelstoke’s dance community finally has a studio to call home. Now, it is time to rehearse. The Studio is performing at the Local Food Initiative’s five year anniversary market, slated for Sept. 18. Before the stretching, jumping, and practicing begins, Gardiner is excited to finally reunite with her students.
“I think the most exciting thing for me and Kenley will be seeing our kids’ faces when they walk into the building for the first time. It is beautiful, and it’s going to be amazing. I can’t wait to see them and their reaction to it.”