Young jazz dance students work on their routine at Ashley Kraszlany’s Twinkle Toes Dance Studio

Building confidence on the dance floor

Registration for Twinkle Toes Dance Studio classes is still open

Forty-eight and counting.

That’s how many students have signed up for dance lessons at Ashley Kraszlany’s Twinkle Toes Dance Studio.

By day, she’s the executive assistant to the School District 78 secretary treasurer — but on Thursday evening, Kraszlany puts on her dancing shoes and puts her three- to 13-year-old students through their paces.

Some 20 years ago — in the same United Church Hall — it was Kraszlany as a student and Milly Marshall as the instructor.

“I started dancing with Milly, doing ballet when I was around five years old,” said Kraszlany on Monday. “I reflect fondly of the days of learning the important basics of ballet, from positions and steps to form and posture.”

From those first steps, Kraszlany moved on to competitive dancing.

“I danced with Fleita Tutte School of Dance as I got older, as it was first offered in Hope,” said Kraszlany. “When it was discontinued in Hope, I went to Chilliwack. It was a competitive dance school that participated in many competitions throughout the province.”

When Aimee Whitbread set up her Kaleidoscope Studios in Hope, Kraszlany and Emily Bailey were invited to be instructors for the dance school. Whitbread and her family moved to Saskatchewan a few years later and Bailey went to school on Vancouver Island, leaving Hope with no dance school.

“I was saddened to hear when Aimee and her family were moving that the dance studio would not continue,” recalled Kraszlany. “I had many parents and students approach me, asking if I would continue dance in Hope. It didn’t take me long to make the decision that I needed to start my own studio, as I felt it would be a huge loss to our community by not having the option for our youth to be able to dance locally.

“I feel that dance is an important option, as it’s a way for children to express themselves in a unique environment,” contends Kraszlany. “I feel that the structure of the class is important — yet the ability to have fun and learn with peers outside of a classroom setting is important, too. It’s a great form of exercise, while having fun at the same time.

“As a girl, in particular, I feel that dance can aid with self-confidence and self-esteem.”

Starting at 4:30 on Thursday afternoons, Kraszlany runs five classes back-to-back, starting with the age three-four Wee Steps and ending with the age 10-13 Jazz class.

Parents usually drop their kids off, or wait in the foyer of the hall — but Kraszlany puts on a parent night about every six weeks, where parents can sit and observe a class.

“I feel this works best,” said Kraszlany. “From experience, I have found that my dancers are not quite themselves, learning in front of an audience and are easily distracted or shy.

“One challenge that I’ve faced is getting some of the more shy dancers to open up with me and the group,” added the instructor. “I feel very close with each and every one of my students and I go out of my way to make sure each dancer is comfortable and enjoying themselves.

“I was very pleased with our recital last year at Hope Secondary School, which attracted over 300 people. It was so exciting and positive for the dancers.”

Classes will be ending soon for the Christmas break and will start up again on Jan. 12. While many of the current students will be rolling their registration into the next session, Kraszlany says there is room in some groups for new members.

Cost is $200 for five months of weekly classes. Students are required to have ballet or jazz shoes for lessons — and there are costume requirements for the recital.

For more information, visit www.twinkletoesdancestudio.com. Kraszlany can also be reached by e-mail at twinkletoesstudio@gmail.com or by phone at 604-869-1834.