Action shots from the Portside Academy of Performing Arts Christmas recital in Port McNeill. (Bill McQuarrie - North Island Gazette)

Portside dancers show off moves at Christmas recital

The Christmas dance recital was held at the Gate House Theatre on Dec. 13-14.

The Portside Academy of Performing Arts held its Winter Showcase at the Gatehouse Theatre back on Dec. 13-14.

There were fifteen dances, ranging from classical, to funky, to downright cute, performed by dancers aged three to 13. With the wide variety of dances, the high skill level of the dancers and the colourful elegant costumes, the show was a delight for the eyes.

Portside Academy was founded by Alana Collins. Collins grew up in the Comox Valley, living in a logging camp during her early years, then spending her school years in Courtenay. While growing up, she received training for dance at several institutions, including at the Parksville Ballet School and the Pat Pantuso Dancers. She was also a member of the pre-professional company, Dancestreams. After graduating in 1993, she moved to Toronto where she trained and performed professionally. She received most of her teacher training at the National Ballet School.

As someone who has danced previously, this reporter was viewing the performance from another perspective. Dance is a serious discipline. Dancers need to be aware of the movement of their entire body—every limb, every elbow, every tilt of the head has to be in exactly right place at exactly the right time—and sometimes while moving very rapidly! Dancers need eyes in the back and at the sides of their heads, remaining constantly aware of others around them, all toes gracefully rising in the air all at once. Dance involves memorizing a series of steps, often for more than one dance. It requires doing things with the body that doesn’t come easily, none of which come without endless repetition. They need determination to rehearse and perform even when muscles are complaining, and the stomach butterflies are fluttering. They are also tough athletes, going through vigorous physical workouts as grueling as that of any hockey or football player. On top of all these challenges, they are still required to make their performances look energetic and ‘spontaneous’. The children have all demonstrated that they are fearlessly up to the task. They showed determination, enthusiasm, energy and commitment that is quite remarkable for those so young.

Especially with the older groups, there were fine examples of excellent body alignment, timing, synchronicity and bright stage smiles. Evidently, some of the performers are on their way to professional dance careers. The pre-school dancers, dressed in angelic costumes, brought many “awwws” from the audience. They delighted the crowd even when they forgot their steps. At such a young age, they upheld a standard of professionalism, coolly continuing their performance and even helping each other to complete their dance.

The Portside Academy of Performing Arts was launched in September of 2007 in the Image Room at the Chilton Arena, with their first performance happening in May of 2008. Today the Academy has 60 students with the school season running from September to May, and short mini-seasons and summer programs if there is interest. Regular classes happen once a week for most students. Performing arts students come more often, depending on age, ability, training and competitive goals. Until this year, Collins has been the only teacher. Now, her daughter and former student, Estella Collins, and Athena Guy from Calgary, have joined her as teaching staff.

Since she founded the Portside Academy of Performing Arts, several of Collins’ students have gone to provincial competitions, have been accepted to post-secondary programs and professional companies, and are teaching and performing internationally.

– Debra Lynn article

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