New Studio Helping Dancers Ascend In Chatham
Chatham’s newest dance studio, Ascension Dance, is helping local dancers of all levels foster a love for dance, and ascend to new levels of achievement.
Offering both online and in person classes, from toddlers (2-4 years old) up to adult, you can learn more, or sign up at www.ascensiondance.ca.
We had a chance to catch up with founder and head instructor Brianna Cernanec about the new studio. Read our conversation below:
CKSN: Tell us how Ascension Dance came to be?
Brianna: I have been teaching dance full-time for the past decade at a local dance studio. My employer decided to retire, hoping to sell the business to me and some of my fellow teachers. While in deliberations, the world was put on hold due to coronavirus, and all dance teachers were indefinitely laid off. For people around the world, this shutdown was a time of unprecedented uncertainty. For me, it was also a time of much soul-searching. What is truly important to me in life? What will the future of dance be like? Is it wise to assume a lot of debt during these uncertain times? What do I love about teaching dance? What would I love to change if I had the clean slate of a new dance studio? Would there be enough dancers willing to be a part of my vision for a new, forward-thinking dance studio? As I later discovered, the answer was “Yes!”
Ascension Dance started out focused on providing online dance classes. With businesses and schools closed, staying at home was already having an impact and people were missing dance. During the quarantine I saw a need for dancers to keep their bodies moving to music for their physical and mental health. I will admit that I was really missing dance too! I discovered there was also a need for people who may not ordinarily consider themselves dancers to become more active and try some new, enjoyable diversions in the form of instructive dance videos. I spent many hours re-structuring curriculum and building new lesson plans to better fit the medium of pre-recorded online classes. I researched the best ways to deliver weekly content to dancers. I found technical help to build the necessary website and online presence, planned and shot hours of instructional video in several different locations, and invited a few other dancers I knew to lead classes as well. June 1st of 2020 we went live with 36 different classes each week for dancers of all ages and abilities. I taught a few private lessons over Zoom, but most of the classes were pre-recorded videos that students could watch and re-watch as many times each week as they wanted to. The response was overwhelming, with many people locally and a few across the world enrolling in classes.
As our local municipality shifted toward reopening, several people in the dance community asked if I would offer in-person dance classes as well once it was safe to do so. The search for a studio space began. Wanting a location that would accommodate my vision of Ascension Dance, I was blessed with the perfect one in a beautifully treed, grassy, quiet and safe residential neighbourhood, with plenty of parking. It was a match made in heaven! When I signed the lease, Ascension Dance became a hybrid dance studio with a vison for the future, offering both online and in-studio dance instruction.
CKSN: What do you feel sets Ascension Dance apart, or makes your studio a place to consider for those looking to explore dance?
Brianna: During the creation period of Ascension Dance, I found myself addressing issues in which dance studios typically fall short. Costs of dance instruction, recitals, costumes and competitions can become quite a burden for families wishing a great dance experience for their children. With the new Ascension Dance model, and with the assistance of new technology, I was able to create dance programs that maximize the enjoyment of dancing and performing while minimizing the outlay. High quality video is used in both the dance instruction and performance aspects of Ascension Dance, allowing for infinite creative possibilities for both.
Building a strong community has always been a key goal with Ascension Dance, even when we were not able to meet in person. Through email, social media, and phone calls, keeping parents informed in all aspects of their children’s dance education, choices, and progress is a top priority, as well as helping parents and students to navigate the evolving dance world. We are always looking for ways to get to know our dancers and families a little better and share about ourselves. Over the summer we were able to run some costumed photoshoots at fun locations so that dancers could show off their moves and get comfortable in front of a camera. I have shared some of the funny bloopers that go on behind the scenes while shooting online classes and encouraged feedback as we were making decisions while setting up the new studio. We want all our dancers and families to feel they belong to the community which is Ascension Dance.
Creative collaborations with members of the performing arts community distinguish Ascension Dance from other local dance studios. Already we have invited local musicians to accompany online dance lessons as well as create new musical works for us to dance to. Dance complements all other aspects of the arts which lets me imagine broader and more rewarding experiences for dancers, musicians, artists and audiences. Dancers are given the opportunity of participating in enriching and unique in-studio and on-location video productions that keep everyone safe in our current environment. Once venues and public spaces open up a little more we have many plans to get our dancers in front of audiences throughout the community.
The intimate and caring feeling at Ascension Dance stems from our principle that all students deserve to receive personalized dance guidance specific to their goals and growth. This individualized attention is critical for all dancers of all ages and abilities. No two dancers are alike, and as owner I am thrilled to have the freedom to ensure all dancers are receiving optimal direction for their unique dance journeys.
CKSN: What are some of your guiding principles, or your focus in teaching
Brianna: My teaching style and philosophy were heavily influenced by my childhood experiences. I was fortunate to partake in many aspects of the performing arts, including: music, voice, drama, musical theatre, and all types of dance. I was also blessed to grow up in a loving and supportive family environment, with great work ethics, and lots and lots of humour! I’ve found that regardless of age and ability, students learn best when they are at ease and having fun, which is right up my alley! Whether they are honing their Cecchetti ballet technique for exams, learning a comedic musical theatre number, or gently moving their bodies to improve their health – if it’s enjoyable for the dancers they will more easily achieve their dance goals.
Age-appropriateness has been an extremely important issue for me from day one as a teacher, and will never change. From the choosing of music, costumes and themes to the creation of the choreography, I ensure all aspects of the dance experience is fitting to the age of the dancer. There is too many inappropriate influences on our young dancers these days, and Ascension Dance prides itself in instilling dancers with self-esteem and self-respect. This not only makes for better dancers, but also more confident and happier lives.
All dancers deserve personal and focused attention to support them in their dance journey. Whether you join us for 30 minutes each week online, or spend hours at the studio, we commit to learn about you and your dance dreams and work to help you achieve them. With our commitment to inclusion and equality, we provide the same attention to dancers of all ages and ability and work hard to eliminate favouritism.
CKSN: When a child or adult arrives at Ascension Dance, what experience do you aspire for them to have?
Brianna: The feeling of arriving at Ascension Dance is very different for different dancers. Because we provide both online and in-studio classes, some friends will never physically be in our studio.
These dual methods of instruction at Ascension Dance allow people to customize their dance education according to their own needs. Some people are more comfortable learning in their own home environment for safety, convenience, ease of scheduling and many other reasons. Some are not able to attend the Chatham studio due to distance or safety or health concerns. Our high quality video dance lessons allow them to learn and practice in privacy and at their own pace, while also receiving live-streamed, one-on-one instruction along the way if that will serve them better.
For those dancers who chose to attend classes in Chatham, our new studio at 530 Victoria Avenue is accessible, safe, bright and inviting inside and out. We have worked with our local municipality and public health unit to ensure that the latest local health protocols are met and exceeded. Fresh air and natural lighting enhance the comfort level within the studio. From 2 year-olds to retirees and every level of dancer in-between, every aspect of Ascension Dance has the well-being of its students in mind.
I aspire to provide dance instruction to anyone with any inclination or desire to learn. Dance has been an extremely rewarding part of my life, and I love sharing its joys with as many children and adults as I can. The Ascension Dance staff share my vision. They are helpful and committed to giving their utmost, as I am, in providing dance education and student/teacher/parental communication.
CKSN: What else do you want people to know about Ascension Dance?
Brianna: New and evolving technology is making it possible to broaden dance education and performance opportunities in ways I never considered even a year ago. Ascension Dance is breaking new ground with community collaborations. Every dancer is invited to discuss and plan their desired dance experience according to their own means, abilities, preferences, and goals. Dream big or dream small, Always have fun!
Students can choose to dance online from another county, province, or country or show up to dance in our Victoria Avenue studio, create a fun experience while building proper dance foundations and technique
begin to dance at the age of 2 or 82 , take their first stage bow or take their ballet exams , and perform with their family and friends or for social media
attend class at home, perform on location, be part of videotaped productions, photoshoots, competitions, and recitals.
Every dancer, regardless of their abilities and level of commitment, is valued and appreciated for their uniqueness and what they offer the world. Rise up to become a better dancer, a better person than you were the day before. There is a special place for all at Ascension Dance.
If you would like to learn more, please go to Ascension’ website at www.ascensiondance.ca. You can still register for fall in-studio classes at http://www.ascensiondance.ca/studio-classes-register.html and online classes at: http://www.ascensiondance.ca/online-classes-register.html