I recently had a chance to sit down with three of the vital coordinators and volunteers of local performing arts studio Dreams In Motion, where we dove into the past, the present and the future. Debra Donaldson, Cat MacKenzie-Gray and Kerri Paquette were all very eager to talk about what is obviously a passion, something they WANT to work hard at. While I was aware of the studio and how much it meant to some friends of mine, I only recently turned my focused attention to it. My daughter is four, spunky and NEEDS TO DANCE! Doing a blog on Dreams In Motion was then twofold for me. I would be sharing the story of a local organization and sending lots of love their way, which is MY passion….but I would also be listening to what they say with my parenting ears, and to be honest I wasn’t too sure if I was ready to enter my kids into performing arts. The apprehension was coming from not wanting huge commitments placed on my family and tons of pressure with competing. I’m not quite sure why I created this story in my head, but it was there nonetheless. I am happy to say within minutes of speaking with Debra, Cat and Kerri, my concerns were addressed and the only feeling I was left with was excitement for my daughter to start. I knew it was a perfect fit. That feeling continued as we were five minutes into my daughter’s first class. Her teacher, Alex, was EXACTLY what I would want to hold the attention of a young group of girls. She is loud (you can’t show weakness around toddlers!), fun and focused…and she knew enough to encourage the timid little ladies to get into the groove by cranking a song from the Moana soundtrack, followed up by Taylor Swift….yep, this was meant to be.
Tell us about the humble beginnings of this determined and energetic thirteen year old organization.
Dreams In Motion was the brain child of myself and Jennifer Butchart. The whole idea had been a dream of mine since I was a young dancer in Watertown, NY. I had taught for 20 years, for the most part, by myself, and I was getting burnt out. At this time I was also going for my Master Reiki training and through much meditation, prayer and hours of thinking and talking with my Reiki Master. I knew what I really wanted to do with my life was teach dance and bring the performing arts together, but if I came back, as this was a year I had taken off, I was coming back the right way. I had to have a facility that could house this, I had to have someone who knew more about arts administration and this is where Jennifer came in. I had taught Jennifer years before and we had remained friends. I knew Jenn had gone to university for Arts Administration, so I called her up and we talked about me hiring her to get this new facility started. Jenn wondered if I would be willing to have her as a partner and thus the partnership which started Dreams In Motion was created!
What is the meaning behind the name?
“In Motion” is my way of saying my dreams are moving forward. I had called my dance school for the previous 20 years Debbie’s Dance Academy. I knew we had to have a name that wasn’t mine and to explain that my dreams and the dreams of our students are definitely in motion.
I’ve heard stories about shy, timid youth blossoming upon introduction to the performing arts world. What do you think are essential elements for this to happen?
Cat & Kerri:
We provide a safe space for our students and are very welcoming. At Dreams, we both challenge and nurture each individual student; promoting growth creatively, socially and physically with respect. Determination, self-discipline, confidence, focus and concentration, listening skills, multi-tasking, positive social skills and having a passion for what you are doing are just a few of the qualities that students acquire when they are exposed to activities that foster them.
How do you feel Dreams in Motion differs from other studios you’ve encountered over the years?
I think it goes back to the students believing in themselves and the teachers believing in their students so much. Also, they know that the studio is a safe place to express themselves no matter what. We encourage all students to perform to their highest, whether it be as an actor, a dancer, an artist or a musician.
Cat & Kerri:
We are like a great big happy family! Here at Dreams we meet the individual needs of our students. We celebrate each of their accomplishments. We are about the journey, not just the destination. We have many previous students pop back in for a visit when they are back in town or stay connected with us through social media.
Here are a few comments from some of the parents on why Dreams stands out in their hearts:
“Being at Dreams has brought my child out of her shell and given her more confidence”
“At a time when my childrens’ lives at home were less than ideal, Dreams provided them with a safe, accepting and welcoming place to grow. My children felt that there were other adults who genuinely cared about them and they felt truly valued as a person. As a parent I appreciated that my children had the opportunity to spend time with others of so many different ages and backgrounds. It was truly inter-generational. They formed long-lasting relationships with others. They have also learned the spirit of volunteerism!”
“My children learned multiple skills at Dreams In Motion that I feel they wouldn’t have learned anywhere else.”
And in the words of the students when asked “what did Dreams do for you?”
“Gave me more confidence”
“Gave me something to look forward to every week”
“Made me feel comfortable in front of people when presenting”
“Taught me to memorize”
“I get to wear a tutu”
“Being at Dreams made me realize I wanted to work with kids”
“Dreams gave me stability, a home and a family. Dreams In Motion was a place I always felt safe.”
“If it wasn’t for Dreams In Motion, I honestly don’t think I would still be alive today.”
We would also like to share a quote from a teacher/student:
Dreams In Motion is not only a studio of incredible talent and determination, but it is a family. The Dreams family grows and adds more beautiful faces each year. I have made the closest friends that will not only be here for me now, but I know I can count on forever. Without Dreams I wouldn’t be who I am today and I would most definitely not be as confident and open to expressing myself as I am. Dreams In Motion is the best thing that ever happened to me without a doubt. I encourage everyone to find something that makes them feel as special as I felt throughout my many years at Dreams In Motion.
What can parents expect from becoming a Dreams family?
Cat & Kerri:
Parents can expect to see their child flourish. The students become friends with one another and support each other. The parents often become friends and help one another to get their students to and from classes. Our parents can become even more involved by volunteering and becoming members of our Board, thereby being involved in the decision making process for Dreams.
Are there any misconceptions you’ve struggled to correct about performing arts?
The first one is people saying they can’t dance! I always tell my students that the word “can’t” is not in my vocabulary, that if they can move, they can dance.
Another misconception is that there is a certain body type that can only dance, which is totally not the case.
We have also struggled with the misconception that we are not athletes. In fact, I call our dancers Artistic Athletes!
Then there is the struggle of our boys to make sure that they are not ridiculed for wanting to dance.
Another one is that ballet is boring. Ballet is the basis of all dance and from this amazing style of dance we learn balance, coordination of head and arms and feet simultaneously, to be able to move slowly or swiftly, to have the correct placement of arms and feet and on and on.
At Dreams we have students that have thrown each one of these misconceptions out the door!
In our previous discussions, you’ve noted the importance of not introducing the notion of being nervous or scared in relation to performing on stage. Can you elaborate on this for our readers?
We never talk to our students about being nervous or ask if they “are scared” and we also try to have the parents not say these things to the students before going on stage. We try to encourage that they are there to have so much fun, to do their best and to enjoy their time performing.
Cat & Kerri:
We don’t suggest to the students how they are feeling. If they use those terms, we recognize them and suggest that it is “normal” to have those feelings, but to remember that no one in the audience knows your part, so as long as you look like you know what you are doing, all is good. Also, that the other students will help them when they are on stage. Dreams does have a Competition Team, for those who would like to compete. We encourage our students to do their best while reassuring them that it is about doing your best, not about winning medals, trophies or having the highest mark. It is about how they feel as an individual.
Speaking of performing, tell us about the exciting local partnership you have for end of the year recitals!
Cat & Kerri:
We are thrilled that we are able to collaborate with The Royal Theatre in Gananoque. We had our recital there this past June. The students were so excited to be on a big stage with all the lights and sound! It was fantastic for the parents as every seat is a good seat at The Royal. We will be having our Winter Festival at The Royal on Saturday Dec 2nd and our Year-end Festival on Saturday June 2nd.
What excites you about your new location right in the heart of downtown Gananoque?
Cat & Kerri:
We have already benefitted from our new downtown location as multiple people have popped by to see who we are. Many of them never even knew we existed! Our students have commented on how easy it is to access us and they like that they have places nearby to grab a bite to eat. This location has been fully renovated. It is clean and contemporary, yet classic. We have a comfortable waiting area for the parents and students as well as a space for our students to do homework. We have provided lockers and cubbies for them as well. We sourced our renovation supplies locally and thanks to the local WISH 1000 group we were able to install a lovely new dance floor! The Stonewater Pub’s Music Trivia group donated funds which allowed us to install a set of new sliding mirrors. Thanks goes to Darren at the Old English Pub for providing a space for us to continue our Dreams In Motion.
A thought from a current teacher:
Our new location is just a new building that we have turned into our new home. It doesn’t take much to change a regular room into something so loving and full of life when you have the passion of everyone who walks through our door. It is the exact same loving home as anywhere we could be.
Feeling like Dreams In Motion is the perfect place for someone in YOUR family? You still have a few days to get in on the current session! Registration closes on Monday, October 16th so pop by and check out the studio and chat with any one of the girls. My daughter is three classes in and is already IN HER ELEMENT, she absolutely loves it…and what do I love? I love the look of pride glowing on her face at the end of each class.
Disclosure: This post was sponsored in collaboration with Dreams In Motion. I love to promote what I love.
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