Spectrum City Dance was abuzz last weekend as students from Prince Rupert and across the Northwest were treated to a workshop from a pair of dance professionals from Toronto.
Brian Foley and Bree Wasylenko conducted the workshop, which ran Nov. 16-17. Wasylenko remained for the following week to continue working with local dancers. Foley’s lessons focused on jazz and tap, while Wasylenko brought a contemporary focus to the classes.
Foley is well known in the dance world for, along with his wife Faye, creating Associated Dance Arts for Professional Teachers, or ADAPT. The dance syllabus is one of the leading ones in the world, and features in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Asian countries such as Hong Kong, Singapore and Indonesia. Faye often joins Brian on his trips to Prince Rupert, but with the popularity of the program was called away to another workshop.
Foley’s first foray into B.C.’s Northern dance scene was a trip to Smithers around two decades ago. Ella Ferland, the senior instructor at Spectrum, attended the workshops and struck up a friendship with Foley. When the ADAPT classes came to require a larger space, Spectrum’s studio became their new home, where they remain to this day.
|Brian Foley spent the weekend instructing students in the proper techniques for quality level tap and jazz performance. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)|
|Foley has brought his workshops to the Northwest for two decades now. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)|
“My forte is technique,” Foley explains. “I key in on things the kids should be working on at that level. I also choreograph training combinations in the actual class. I think what most students like about coming to the workshops is that they get a lot of energy and motivation.”
Foley may only be in town for two days, but he manages to pack a much longer timeframe into his workshops. He dances onstage with the kids throughout, showing no signs of slowing down as he enters his fifth decade of teaching the ADAPT program.
“The workshops are very high energy workshops, and they’re very high quality,” Foley says. “I really push the kids to work beyond their comfort zone in order to help each one of the children achieve their own personal potential when they come to the workshop. I challenge them to dance above their potential with new techniques and new routines.”
|“I think what most students like about coming to the workshops is that they get a lot of energy and motivation.” – Brian Foley (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)|
|Brian Foley with his Sunday afternoon tap class. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)|
Recognition of the workshops are high among dancers, evidenced by many of the participants hailing from across the Northwest, including Terrace and Smithers. Renya Brouwer was one of the students who once again travelled from Terrace for the opportunity.
“I’ve come since I was eight,” Brouwer said. “It’s amazing seeing Mr. Foley every year, he makes a connection with us which is great. Mr. Foley always says no excuses, you can always push harder and try your best.”
Foley was joined this year by Bree Wasylenko, a dance choreographer. She focused on group choreography and expression during her sessions, including an emphasis on giving a little extra during a dance to Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U”.
|Students were urged to be dramatic as they danced to Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U”. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)|
|Nathania Cam shines during her solo performance. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)|
“Getting the dancers outside of their comfort zone and outside of their heads is so important,” Wasylenko explained. “Having that chance to ‘cheese it up’ and go over the top and be silly and be goofy allows them to try new things and explore in ways that they probably wouldn’t otherwise.”
“It’s also just so much fun to watch and feels so good, so I find it’s a good little exercise to do with the dancers to get them to throw it all out there and go for it.”
“It’s about how much passion and individuality each dancer can bring to the routine, and then share with me, their parents, their fellow dancers, and lay it all out on the dance floor and have a great time,” Wasylenko added.
|Bree Wasylenko made her first trip to Prince Rupert this year, teaching in the workshops and then staying throughout the week to give choreography lessons. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)|
Both Foley and Wasylenko said they were impressed by the quality of dancers, and instructors, in Prince Rupert.
“The dancers are very committed and work very hard,” Wasylenko said. “They’re really great with detail and they go for it 100 per cent. It doesn’t matter what they’re doing, they’re giving it their all, which you don’t get everywhere.”
|Shyla Pedan and Coral Fitzsimmons pose after one of the dance sessions. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)|
“There’s good quality teachers in those towns. I’m proud to say a lot of them come to our ADAPT teachers training school program,” Foley said. Spectrum instructor Alison Sherman is one of those students, returning to her hometown of Prince Rupert after completing Foley’s course for teachers in Toronto.
“I love coming to Prince Rupert, and I’m going to keep coming up as long as I can,” Foley added. “I made a promise to Ella and to Spectrum City and Prince Rupert and the whole Northern area that I’ll keep coming up as long as I can put one foot in front of the other.”
Alex Kurial | Sports Reporter
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