By Denise van Es, HCA Dance Coordinator

Anyone who is involved in the arts knows the dramatic effects of not being able to perform or create in our favourite spaces. We also know how much our hearts long to be in a space that inspires us to create and to feel like we belong to an amazing environment. 

As a teacher of almost 15 years, my main priority is to inspire and educate my students in the healthiest, most enjoyable environment possible. I focus on imparting proper attention to detail, discipline, body awareness, and time management to my students. My passion has always been to move to music, in any shape or form. It is a passion that has run deep since I was a little girl and my only hope is to inspire children to find their passion too.

When the pandemic hit back in March, movement and inspiration was very difficult to find. Every day, my students and I counted down until the next time we would be back in the studio to finish the creations we had started. Keeping in contact with my dancers was so important to me and vital for all of us as we collectively faced uncertainty. 

In April,  HCA decided to try Pay-What-You-Can online classes for our students, to give them a sense of normalcy during these times. At first, I was concerned that students would not have enough space or the right flooring to be able to dance full out, or perhaps wifi would become an issue while doing online classes. After troubleshooting and setting it all up with HCA’s amazing staff, our online classes were underway. It was so wonderful to see my students and be able to share our experiences from our homes, not to mention all the cool pets I got to meet along the way! Even my own dog, Maggie, got to join in on our online classes and share her two cents worth of corrections and feedback! 

From April to July, I taught Ballet, Modern and Lyrical online and I can say the experience was eventful! It was so interesting to be able to work in a different space, with various requirements and needs, and create exercises and choreography you would never think of, given the circumstances. My students were so completely dedicated – taking class every week and maintaining their technique and passion for dance. We shared many laughs and amazing moments together online, and it gave us a sense of connection that we might not have otherwise had if HCA hadn’t decided to do online classes.

In August, I decided to do a trial run of in person classes while running online classes simultaneously. We put all the proper protocols in place to ensure a safe learning environment. What I can say is the results were miraculous! Seeing my students in person, being able to move with them again, feel their energy, and feed off of their amazing talents and passion was the most humbling experience for me during the pandemic. My students worked harder than ever and it showed – come September my students were well prepared, stronger than ever before, and we were able to continue from where we left off, leaving them ahead of their technique level rather than behind. 

The best thing a student told me after all of this was, “Miss Denise, can we do this every summer, so we can dance all year long?”

That question alone was enough for me to say, “Yes! We should!”

Artists thrive on being able to express themselves and live their passions every day of their lives, and it is so important for them to always stay connected. I am so privileged and honoured to work in a community that desires to always inspire others. The best thing we can take from all of this, and I know I especially do, is realize how lucky we are to have each other and to be able to dance and move together with our hearts wide open. 

To dance and move is to sing with the body, and our body is an instrument that never stops playing. 



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