HEADING INTO ITS 8TH SEASON, CHILLIWACK’S PROJECT DANCE TRAINS YOUNG DANCERS UNDER THE LEADERSHIP OF FOUNDER AMANDA QUINTON
As we step into the 7,200 square foot Chilliwack studio, we meet Project Dance founder Amanda Quinton and a group of her elite dancers practicing in the studio. Amanda began dancing at the young age of 4 and quickly discovered her passion for teaching as a teenager. “I started assisting when I was 14 and my love of teaching really blossomed there,” Amanda tells us, “I was a nervous kid and I liked being behind-the-scenes and running the show.” With multiple studios already in Abbotsford, Quinton realized there was a need for a studio in the up and coming City of Chilliwack. In its first year, Project Dance trained 200 dancers, today the studio boasts 650 dancers who train with 22 teachers in ballet, jazz, musical theatre, tap, modern and contemporary, acro and hip hop.
Among the dancers, are a group of 44 in the elite program who range in age from 9 – 16+. Most of the dancers attend virtual school on weekday mornings and spend their afternoons and early evenings training at Project Dance. The program allows them to balance school and dancing, while still giving them time to spend with their family and friends. “They’re getting the extra technical training,” Amanda shares, “but it’s important for them to be kids too.”
From Vancouver to Seattle to Los Angeles, the dancers participate in conventions and workshops throughout the year to hone their skills. Most recently, Project Dance spent a weekend with VIP Dance Events run by Blake McGrath, a well-known Canadian dancer who competed in the first season of So You Think You Can Dance and performed with stars like Madonna, Britney Spears and Janet Jackson. “He came and choreographed a routine for us as well,” Amanda shares, “the dancers were so proud to be at their own studio and under his direction. He was here to teach us, inspire us and make us better. They were immersed and working with dancers who they really looked up to.”
With many of the dancers training with Project Dance since the very beginning, Amanda and the dancers are like a second family. That sense of family and support can be seen in “Our Story”, a routine choreographed by teacher Sarah Reis. Voice recordings from the dancers narrate the moving five-minute routine, telling stories from their lives including three very personal tragedies. “It was very therapeutic for them,” Amanda shares, “they were able to tell their side of it and be supported by their dancers. Dancing became an outlet for them.”
Asked about the most rewarding part of running Project Dance, Amanda is quick to talk about the kids. “Being their leader. It’s so cool to walk into the room and have 100 kids run up and give me a hug,” Amanda shares, “having an affect on young kids is so rewarding.” Amanda also reflects on a recent night starting her 8th season at the studio. “I was sitting in my car and looking at this parking lot packed with people picking up their kids,” Amanda remembers, “people were leaving, happy and smiling and I thought this was a place that I created.”
Project Dance performs every Saturday at 5pm from November 21st – December 19th in the Highstreet Holiday show, join us for a third season of holiday fun! More details here.
Follow one girl’s journey on how dance has impacted her life….watch video.
Photo Credit: Tanya Goehring