When ALGN Whistler owner Amélie Lavoie was coming up with the business plan for her new dance studio, she was asked who her target clientele was. She didn’t have to think long.
“I was like, ‘Everybody!’” exclaims Lavoie. “They were like, ‘No, you need to pinpoint this.’ OK, I’ll pinpoint the main people who will walk through the door, but I want everyone in there. At some point, I want everybody in here.’”
And that’s not just coming from a place of self-interest. Sure, like any business owner trying to make ends meet in the costly Whistler market, Lavoie wants to succeed, but her dream of welcoming every person through the doors of her Mountain Square studio comes more from her deep-seeded belief that we are all made for moving.
“There is this mentality that dance is just ‘five, six, seven, eight’ and that it’s so structured and all has to look the same,” Lavoie says. “When you’re taking class at a drop-in level, that’s not what it’s about. It’s about discovering yourself. When you’re seeing yourself in the mirror and exploring how to do this move, you find how it feels good in your body.
“It’s definitely something that I would love everyone to experience.”
Lavoie’s enthusiasm for what she does is infectious, to say the least. Since opening her Mountain Square studio in February, she has had more than 300 students come in to strut their stuff. Offering classes in everything from jazz, jazz-funk and hip-hop to ballet, contemporary and even a class teaching how to dance with confidence in heels, ALGN has taken somewhat of a different approach to your average dance studio. While there are programs for kids and teens, the studio’s focus is on adults, and eschewing the cutthroat mentality often found in competitive dance, Lavoie and her roster of talented instructors strive to create a welcoming, judgment-free environment for anyone willing to take the leap (or jeté, as it were).
“The instructors are so nice. They are serious dancers with so much experience but also so patient and fun,” said student Diana Suco, who joined with a friend in March. “With no dance experience, I never felt left behind or like I don’t belong in the studio. They all just want to share their love of dance and create a space for everyone in the Sea to Sky.”
Originally from Vancouver and with a plethora of dance credits under her belt that include Nickelodeon, the 2010 Winter Paralympics, and the BC Lions halftime show—not to mention working alongside high-profile entertainers and choreographers such as Mandy Moore and Jillian Meyers—Lavoie recognized a niche in Whistler after teaching at Vibe Studio for several months before it closed down, and then moving on to lead her own drop-in classes. It was during that time that Lavoie “rented every possible place you could imagine,” from boardrooms to school gymnasiums, and realized there was a market for a new dedicated dance space in town.
It didn’t take long for Lavoie to amass a list of about 90 clients through her private classes, mostly intermediate students. “I thought, ‘If there are that many people who had danced before, how many are there that want to start but haven’t had the chance?’”
In a town full of skiers and bikers, the Vancouver native also saw a need to offer a different kind of creative outlet for those who may not be as keen on Whistler’s signature sports.
“I would love for people to move here and not just because they ski or mountain bike,” she says. “I’ve even had people reach out to me in Ontario saying, ‘Hey, I found out that you’re there, I’m moving there now because there’s a dance studio.’ That’s a big thing. It could define whether or not someone sees Whistler as a long-term place. I’ve also had that comment before: ‘I love this town but have really been missing this part of my life, moving my body in a way that is expressive.’ Obviously it requires physicality, but it’s a little bit less intense than skiing and snowboarding.”
To learn more, visit algnwhistler.com.