Dance academy proposed 

If you want to improve your skiing, take up dance training.

This may be a quantum leap in some peoples’ imaginations but to local choreographer and dancer, Trina Eby, it makes perfect sense. And she should know, having just taken up skiing this season.

"I wasn’t allowed to ski when I was young because I was an international gymnast and my trainers were afraid I would break my leg," she says. "I’ve only skied three times but can already do the intermediate runs easily. I think it’s because of the balance and co-ordination learned through dance."

Eby, along with a few local supporters, hopes to establish a dance academy in Whistler and is currently in the process of setting up the Whistler Dance Society to run the academy. Her vision is to offer classes from beginner to professional and ultimately to put on shows and performances.

"Aspen, Vail and Banff all have arts programs that include dance and I am confident it could work here," she says.

The fact that earlier efforts to establish arts programs here have failed doesn’t dissuade her. The Whistler Centre for Business and the Arts closed its doors in late 1997 because of the inability to meet its $750,000 annual operating costs. A lack of grassroots support and too many "high end" projects were among the reasons cited for its demise.

Eby says her experience in setting up similar dance centres around the world has reinforced the need to get local people involved.

"Whistler parents have especially responded to the idea because apart from outdoor activity, there is not much else." She says involving young children is essential since they make up the backbone of any growing dance academy.

Currently Whistler residents who want to learn dance must drive to Squamish or Brackendale to receive their training.

Eby hopes to offer a comprehensive program ranging from classical ballet to contemporary dance. But she says public perceptions will have to adapt to changes in modern training disciplines.

"Canada is still stuck in the ’70s in terms of thinking the classics and contemporary dance should be kept separate," she explains. "Even ballet companies are now moving towards becoming dance theatres rather than a sole grounding in the classics."

She says modern dance also incorporates new technology such as video projection and computer imagery, so the sky’s the limit in terms of artistic creativity.

Eby is currently in negotiations with Millennium Place managers over securing space when the centre finally opens its doors. Millennium Place general manager Rob Hallam says the stage deck would be ideal for dance training because of its sprung floor. However, he says problems could arise if that space was required by overlapping events. Hallam says he will monitor the level of community interest in the dance academy proposal and evaluate it alongside other requested space bookings.

He anticipates the Millennium Place being open for occupancy in late April, with an official opening in late May. The centre was scheduled to open around Christmas but has been held up by construction delays.

Any dance teachers or volunteers interested in getting involved with the academy proposal can call Eby at (604) 935-0200.


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