Imagine a young girl, born and raised in Mission, that followed her dancing dream as it took her around the world. This is the story of Gina, owner of Arch-way Dance.
Gina attended the Fraser Valley Academy of Dance, before it relocated from Nottman to the old Masonic Hall on Main Street.
After graduation, she advanced her dancing skills through a two year diploma with the Dance Program at Grant McEwen university and then continued on to the University of Calgary.
They say that dance enables you to fully experience yourself and your place in the world by heightening your senses, sharpening your perceptions, honing your physical capacity, and drawing attention to issues of representation and identity.
Combined these credentials and experience, Gina found herself adventuring to New Zealand on a dance contract for seven years, and from there, ventured to Fiji.
She was contracted in Fiji for three years and when her tenure was up, the dance company was eager to renew, but Gina felt Mission pulling on her heart strings.
This was at a time when her siblings were starting families and Gina was beginning to feel a certain amount of disconnect after 10 years overseas.
“I made the journey back home with my Fijian dance company in 2014 to perform at the Mission Folk Music Festival,” Gina explains. “It was then that I fell back in love with my hometown.”
It was time to come home.
“Mission is a unique and beautiful little town,” Gina says. “We tend to take advantage of the beauty of our surroundings here and especially our community.”
Having always been a freelance teacher, suddenly back in her own community, Gina decided it might be worth a shot to try running a dance business on her own.
She started small.
Based out of the Ukrainian Hall, Gina began with two programs; Tiny Toes which consisted of 3-4 year olds, and Little Stars, 5-8 year olds.
“When I first started, I only had 3 kids in my program,” she remembers.
It didn’t take long for friends and family to work their magic and word of mouth spread throughout the community. Gina then began her own mobile dance centre which concentrated on bringing dance to local preschools. This program grew and from here, Gina was given the opportunity to start her own studio at St. Mary’s.
After extensive renovations, Gina finally had the studio space she had been envisioning and Arch-way Dance began.
In Gina’s first year, she averaged approximately 25-30 kids and that number tripled the following year. Expanding interest in an adult classes, and an ever increasing participation in her youth programs, Gina managed to obtain a second studio and underwent renovations once again.
Prior to the recent lockdown of non-essential businesses and group gatherings, Gina could boast two dance studios, two additional instructors and a total of 200+ dancers enrolled in Arch-way.
Through a tremendously difficult and stressful time, Arch-way has managed to keep spirits up. They have been forced to cut down costs and give discounts to cliental, but have managed to maintain the exact schedule that the dancers had prior to COVID-19.
COVID-19 affected Arch-way in not only a financial manner, but due to government restrictions, they have been forced to cancel major community events, such as their spring dance camp and dance exchange programs, as well as shows previously scheduled at the Clarke Theatre.
“80% of my students are still actively participating.” Gina tells us. “The support we have received from the parents has been fantastic.”
As we all attempt to navigate uncharted territory, it can a difficult process to keep kids engaged. To try and keep the kids excited and interested with the online classes, they have been bringing in guest teachers, both local and international. Two Fijian teachers have been brought in to add a cultural component of dance to our senior and adult students. Well-known local actor/director/writer, Camille Atebe, was brought on to teach musical theatre classes online.
Arch-way dance is hoping to open up to full classes come September. Until then, they are offering private lessons and still maintaining their Zoom schedule throughout the summer. In June. Gina plans on hosting outdoor classes in order to give their students something to look forward to.
Finally, the big question- “Why Arch-way?”
Gina explains that arches represent strength.
“Movement always has an arch of some kind whether it be within your body, your transporting movement or in stagnant position.”
Gina loves the idea that moving through an arch or a tunnel is an exciting pathway that tcan lead to a new vision and a new beginning.
The idea that strength is built in an arch structure is something that the entire community can embrace right now and we too can mimic that through movement.