I love to dance. Having spent ages two through eighteen taking tap, jazz, ballet, and musical theatre lessons, dance has very special place in my heart. Which is why I was thrilled to do a City Girl Connects interview with iDance Vancouver owner and former professional ballerina, Amanda Hemmaway, to talk about why dance is important, the mission of iDance, and why everything should be seen as an opportunity to learn.
Albert Einstein (apparently) once called dancers “the athletes of God”. Never mind the theory of relativity, Albert was clearly an intelligent man if he recognized the strength and grace of dancers. There is a physical and mental resiliency that you develop, but also a freedom to express yourself through movement.
As a shy child, the ability to express myself through movement was a powerful thing; though I didn’t recognize this until I was an adult. I loved putting on my pointe shoes and doing bourrées and pirouettes across the floor, and I loved learning choreography. But even at a young age, I knew I didn’t want to be a professional ballerina. I wasn’t that great, but more importantly, while I loved dancing, I wasn’t super fond of being on stage. But being at the barre was my happy place.
And you know what? As I was reminded last summer, it still is. My friend Amanda Webb from Siyaflo started hosting wellness events at iDance, and each event offers a different style of dance taught by a teacher from the studio. The first one I attended featured Dancehall, which you would think would be easy-breezy for me being half-Jamaican. Nope. Ballerina, remember? But it was so fun.
This is where the importance of trying new things and feeling comfortable in your skin comes into play. (Never mind Dancehall and Lyrical Jazz. Have you ever tried Zumba?) And every time I went to iDance, I saw a variety of ages, abilities, and, both female and male ready to get some cardio in and just have fun.
I love what Amanda is doing to make dance accessible and inclusive of everyone.
Interview with Amanda Hemmaway
WCCG: What is your professional background?
Amanda: Having grown up dancing in a competitive studio from ages 7-17, I had the opportunity to compete and perform in New York City, Disneyland, and Montana. I ended up studying and performing with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, but though my background is dance I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs. Knowing that I couldn’t perform forever and the want to combine my love of dance and business was very appealing. I also don’t like to work for other people. Ha.
WCCG: What drove you to buy the dance studio?
Amanda: At 23, I moved to Vancouver with the intention of opening a studio from the ground up. While I had the money saved up, the bank wouldn’t support starting from scratch. But after three months of being a beach bum in Vancouver, the universe tossed a great opportunity into my lap; that was iDance.
I liked that it it wouldn’t be starting from scratch and that there was an existing foundation. But it turned that the foundation was cracked… It looked good on paper, and it was a fantastic concept, but the existing business had no structure. So I had a lot of work to do to re-establish that foundation. But it was worth it!
WCCG: Having been to your studio several times for events and classes, it’s always warmed my heart to see a variety of ages and abilities in class. Was this one of your goals for the studio?
Amanda: Yes! Dancing in a professional company drove the passion out of dancing for me. When I teach kids, I want to build them up. Everyone should feel welcome to come to take a class and I want to remove the stigma from the dance culture.*
(*Some negative components of being a dancer can include the negatively competitive atmosphere, body shaming (from others and of self), and that dancers need to look a certain way (which I personally saw lead to an eating disorder for someone who was a year behind me in school.)
WCCG: Who inspires you?
Amanda: Firstly, the iDance studio team and teachers. I hold great value in them. They want to be there and they take initiative, which inspires me to do more. It’s about working with. Secondly, the people who come to Dance. We have regulars who have been coming for 6+ years, and the newbies. It’s rewarding to see people’s development and grow confidence.
WCCG: What motivates you?
Amanda: The iDance community motivates and keeps me going. They get something nowhere else in Vancouver really offers. Changing outlook of dance world also motivates me.
WCCG: For anyone starting a business, what would you say is the biggest virtue you need to have as a first-time entrepreneur?
Amanda: Patience and persistence. Growing a business takes time and a best foot forward.
WCCG: What was the worst piece of business advice ever given to you?
Amanda: No bad advice, but it’s important to have transparency and what not to disclose. I think I would rather not have a Comment box. I hope that people feel that they can come up to me to suggest or discuss something.
WCCG: If you could give your 18-year-old self three pieces of advice, what would they be?
- See everything as an opportunity. Be less fearful of going through the door when it opens.
- Volunteer more – spread kindness and take time to make a difference.
- Foster and grow the relationships that will help you (mentorship, etc).
WCCG: What os your favourite quote?
Amanda: I don’t really have a favourite quote, but more of a story called ‘The Parable of a Starfish’. There are a few versions, but I like this one.
iDance Vancouver is located in the vibrant Mt. Pleasant neighbourhood of Vancouver. If you haven’t been, here’s a chance to win two free classes to help you continue your New Year’s wellness and fitness goals!
How to enter:
Click on the below Instagram post to like it and tag a friend! Contest rules are listed within the post.
Good luck and happy dancing!