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Okotoks dance studio quickly pivots to help students

Alberta Dance Academy receives gold in Best Place to Take a Dance Class, bronze for Best Customer Service
Erica Hendry, owner of Alberta Dance Academy, said teamwork was the key to winning two awards in the Best of the Foothills Readers’ Choice Awards. (Bruce Campbell/Western Wheel)

Dance instruction goes beyond teaching steps and movement, said an owner of an award-winning Okotoks studio.

“What we say here is we are just training humans – teaching them to be responsible, self-sufficient, confident, humble… I feel that all of dance training over the years has helped me become the person I am today,” said Erica Hendry, owner/instructor at the Alberta Dance Academy.

Alberta Dance Academy received the gold medal in the Best of the Foothills Readers’ Choice Awards for  Best Place to Take a Dance Class. It also took home the bronze medal for Best Customer Service for all businesses.

A variety of options is a large part of the academy.

“Acro is big right now, ballet, contemporary, jazz, hip-hop and right now we are putting on a musical,” Hendry said. “We planned to do one last May, but that never happened.

“We are hoping to do one at Christmas."

Hendry found her beat in Okotoks as a young girl. Her first instructor was Margaret Vick from Okotoks, and later she danced with Brenda Bilozir, the founder of Alberta Dance Academy nearly 30 years ago.

Hendry was also one of the first graduates of the Alberta High School of Fine Arts at the Comp.

She hasn’t forgotten her roots. Hendry helped fellow fine arts grad Jessica Hoover, now a teacher at the school, with its production in 2019.

Being a dance instructor means you have to be quick on your feet to make something difficult look easy for the patrons – one has to be able to pivot.

Alberta Dance Academy was able to do just that when it shut its doors because of COVID-19 in March. But it didn’t stop teaching.

“We closed our doors on March 15 and we immediately jumped online,” Hendry said. “We started Zooming class on-line on Facebook. My staff was amazing. It was how can I help. Even though a lot of them were trying to figure out what they were doing with CERB and things like that.”

The academy held outdoor classes at the end of May. And for Reverse Parade Day, it had an outdoor stage to give its competitive dancers a chance to perform.

“It’s been tough though, we lost some registrations and we have been battling to get them back,” Hendry said.

The academy is now having hybrid classes. Some students are coming to the studio – with required physical distancing – and the academy is broadcasting its lessons live to students at home through DB Visual Productions in Okotoks.

It’s all part of trying to provide award-winning customer service, which takes a team effort, led by the behind-the scenes people like studio manager Tasha Shukys.

“Our admin team - the amount of questions they answer in a day, the constant emails, our enrolment process – when’s photos, when’s recitals, what is our COVID-19 policies – they help families and walk them through these each thing,” Hendry said.

The silver and bronze medallists in the dance studio competition for the Readers Choice Awards were Everything Movement and Heart to Sole Danceworks, respectively.