Whistler dance studio closes 

Dancers reflect on their years with the Vibe Dance Centre

click to enlarge PHOTO BY THEFULLTIMEHOBBY / COURTESY OF ARTS WHISTLER - final bow "Over the years, it has been amazing to see the dancers grow and flourish, not only in dance technique and artistry, but in all aspects of life," wrote Vibe Dance Centre owner Heather Stremlaw in an email to students. The Vibe is closing its doors after eight years.
  • Photo by TheFullTimeHobby / Courtesy of Arts Whistler
  • final bow "Over the years, it has been amazing to see the dancers grow and flourish, not only in dance technique and artistry, but in all aspects of life," wrote Vibe Dance Centre owner Heather Stremlaw in an email to students. The Vibe is closing its doors after eight years.

The Vibe Dance Centre, Whistler's only dance studio, is closing its doors.

Led by owner and choreographer Heather Stremlaw, the Vibe has been offering training in disciplines like jazz, tap, ballet, lyrical, hip hop and acro, among others, in Function Junction for the past eight years.

"The Vibe's lease ended this summer without the usual option to renew," Stremlaw explained in an email. "Instead I was told I had one year at an increased rental rate to find another space for the studio. This creates a big problem for a small business like mine.

"After exploring the idea of a new location for the studio, it became clear to me that there are no other viable options in Whistler, and therefore I had no choice but to close The Vibe Dance Centre," she continued. "This was a very difficult decision and it has been an emotional time for me as well as many others." 

Christina Reimer's daughters, Ava, nine, and Julianna, 12, have both been dancing in Whistler since they were two years old, while Christina served as the Vibe's lead parent volunteer.

Learning of the studio's closure "was sad," Christina said. "Ever since the girls were little, this has been something we've always done: we finish school, we have a snack in the car, we drive to dance. In May and June and April, we're getting ready for the final, end-of-year show. That's not going to happen anymore with the Vibe."

Julianna added that she "was so devastated."

"I didn't know what to do," said Julianna, who has taken almost every class and style of dance the Vibe offered. "It was such a close family. If I needed something, I would feel safe talking to them about anything, and they were also very encouraging. It was my second home for sure—I was there every day after school."

Julianna, who also assisted Stremlaw with some of the younger-aged classes, was part of the 'Vibe Tribe,' a group of students who would perform in flash mobs, at galas and other events and shows around town. They also attended several out-of-town dance conventions with Stremlaw.

"For me, as a parent, it provided a discipline," Christina added, calling the level of training "incredible."

"Heather expected excellence and she expected their attendance ... She pushed them that little bit further."

Julianna, added: "She was a huge inspiration to me."

Next year, Ava and Julianna will attend Mountain Movement studio in Pemberton.

While Julianna's fellow "Vibe Tribe" member Jaden Côté, 15, had already decided to transition to a competitive dance team in Squamish this year, she's still disappointed to see the studio go. She's been dancing at the Vibe since she was eight years old.

"I thought I was still going to get to do at least a few dances a week there. It's just really sad because it's where I pretty much found out that I wanted to be a dancer. Heather really helped me improve and I was really motivated to go every week," Côté said. "She was always pushing me to be my best and inspiring me. She told me all I had to do is work hard and I could achieve what I wanted to."

The Vibe "was really a place where everyone felt confident and welcome. We were always welcoming new dancers," she added.

Côté said he hopes the studio's closure doesn't discourage local dancers from continuing with the art. "All of us really love to dance, but I think people will quit because they have no other options," she said.

However, it's not all bad news: "Even though the doors of The Vibe will be closing, this doesn't mean that I will stop teaching dance in Whistler. It just means that I have to change the way I am able to offer dance to this wonderful community," Stremlaw said.

She is offering six-week dance sessions held at Awesome Arts Academy, starting Nov. 2, under the name "Vibe with Heather."

To register or for more information, Stremlaw can be reached at 604-966-8423 and also by email at thevibe@live.ca.

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