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2 B A C K T O S C H O O L , M U S I C & D A N C E … A N D M O R E ! - S U P P L E M E N T T O T H E W I N N I P E G F R E E P R E S S - T H U R S D A Y, A U G U S T 1 0 , 2 0 17 By Geoff Kirbyson | Winnipeg Free Press Ballet is for everyone. Of the hundreds of dance students Shauna Jurczak, co-owner and director of Maples Academy of Dance, sees throughout the year, a small but increasing number of them are boys. They may go on to dance careers of their own but right now they're using the experience they get at the seven-year-old studio as a cross-trainer for other sports, such as hockey and soccer. "Male and female athletes can benefit from taking a ballet class in terms of muscle development and injury prevention," Jurczak said. "We've had many parents sign their sons up for ballet class to help improve their skating. We had one dad say, 'if my son is going to take hockey, he's going to take ballet first.' For so long, dancing was branded as a girls' activity. That's not true anymore. Dance takes a lot of athleticism and precision." For example, ballet dancers develop very strong core muscles and are very flexible and agile, which are key attributes in virtually every sport. "In sports such as hockey and soccer, it's 'race down there and score.' They're not teaching you where to plant your foot to pivot. In dance, they learn that," she said. Jurczak and her sister, Jamie Jurczak, grew up in The Maples and she remembers having to spend a lot of time in their mom's car, once they reached a higher level in gymnastics and dance, driving all over town for practices. When they decided to open up their own studio, it didn't take them long to decide where to look for real estate. "It was a no-brainer. We needed to open up where we're from and reach out to the talented kids in the area who aren't dancing because it's not convenient or they didn't know about it. I knew there were amazing kids in the area but I had no idea how many," she said. Maples Academy of Dance offers a wide variety of programming for dancers at both recreational and competitive levels. The Future Stars program is geared towards kids between the ages of three and six. By the age of seven, they can take ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical, musical theatre, acro and pointe. Some kids dance for an hour a week while others dance for 15. The more serious dancers can take part in numerous competitions in the spring, both in Winnipeg and as far away as Minneapolis, Bismarck, N.D., or Regina. Perhaps the most highly anticipated gig of the year for Maples Academy of Dance students is dancing alongside the floats at the Santa Claus parade on Portage Avenue. Jurczak considers her students and their siblings to be part of her extended family so she does her best to create a family environment around the 3,400-square-foot studio. "We try to bring a holistic approach. We want to help the dancers develop into being strong, confident and intelligent people, not just in the dance space but in the community, too. We take into consideration the things they're doing in school and elsewhere so they get a well-rounded education," she said. While some dancers are more advanced, there is no hierarchy at Maples Academy of Dance. The environment is both positive and welcoming and helps its students to develop confidence and their own identity. "Everybody comes from different backgrounds. We're an extremely culturally- diverse neighbourhood. All I care about is that when they come to dance that they're good people and supportive to everybody," she said. "At recitals, our elite kids are backstage with the recreational dancers, helping them with their hair and telling them they're going to be great. They are all equals. My competitive kids love hanging out with the five-year-olds and telling them they're going to be great dancers." For more information, visit ❚ Maples Academy offers a wide variety of programming for dancers at both recreational and competitive levels. Maples Academy of Dance photos "Male and female athletes can benefit from taking a ballet class in terms of muscle development and injury prevention."

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