With after-school programming in downtown Toronto at a premium, Regent Park-based Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie is offering youngsters a chance to learn the nuances of dance.
The downtown dance company is offering free classes three afternoons a week with a focus on contemporary dance Mondays, ballet Wednesdays and hip hop Fridays.
The classes, each of which can accommodate up to 30 students, run from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. The courses are open to youngsters 10 to 14, though Lemieux said the company would welcome older high school students as well.
“Personally, I’m really excited about this because there’s a real desire from kids to come and learn to dance,” said Laurence Lemieux, Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie co-artistic director. “Our business is dance and we do that well. We know what a positive impact it can have on youth.”
While the city has its share of dance classes, being able to afford a proper dance education can be difficult for many families. Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie’s location in the former Salvation Army Citadel building at 304 Parliament St. also makes it easily accessible for families in the downtown core.
“I’m a working mom and I know when kids are little, you wonder what you can do with them from when school gets out until six,” Lemieux said. “I was lucky that my kids’ school had an after-school program, but I know not every school has that.”
The company has held similar free dance classes in the past, with varying results. Lemieux said that while some classes were well-attended, others had few youngsters show up.
“We’d like to have a solid number of kids for each class, but we have lots of room in the studio, so we’re able to accommodate up to 30,” she said.
By offering classes in three different dance styles, Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie gives youngsters a choice and a chance to find their favourite. In the past, Lemieux noted, kids in the Regent Park community tended to gravitate toward the hip hop classes, which were run by instructors from local dance company Gadfly.
“Hip hop worked really well because I think it was less intimidating for the kids,” she said. “They could come in their normal clothes and dance to music they know.”
While Lemieux is excited about the dance classes, she is also eager to begin a run as the lead dancer in her company’s remount of James Kudelka’s From the House of Mirth. The production, based on Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth, follows the story of a young woman who has financial problems, but refuses to marry simply for the sake of financial security.
“There are solutions for Lily Bart, but she can’t accept them and marry someone just for money so she ends up being abandoned by her friends and destitute,” Lemieux said. “The role is very demanding because she starts off quite happy and positive and then she loses everything. It’s difficult to show that positivity knowing what she goes through.”
From the House of Mirth blends music and dance, with four female dancers accompanied by four male opera singers and a five-piece orchestra.
Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie’s free dance classes begin Monday, Jan. 28. Those interested in signing up are asked to register by calling 416-364-8011 by Friday, Jan. 25.
From the House of Mirth will run Feb. 14 to 24 at the Citadel. For tickets or information on the show, call the company or visit www.colemanlemieux.com