Since it began in March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has put a damper on many communities’ theatre performances, dance recitals, and artist showcases.
But for Airdrie’s Ambition Performing Arts (APA), the show must go on.
With the transition to Stage 3 of Alberta’s reopening plan earlier this month, the Luxstone-based performing arts studio has returned to its pre-pandemic programming this summer, including in-person classes, summer camps and competitions.
According to Tara Pickford, owner and founder of APA, the future is looking much brighter for the studio now that in-person classes are possible.
“The staff are looking forward to seeing those faces unmasked and seeing those big smiles back in class again,” she said.
Pickford added the company has spent more than 50 per cent of its season facilitating online dance, music and acting classes due to COVID-19 health measures.
In order to stay afloat throughout the pandemic, APA invested heavily in technology and equipment for its studios last spring, giving instructors home kits to teach dance from home. The studio also created a custom online portal where families could go and access recordings of previous classes their child had missed.
“It gave the opportunity for kids to take classes in person when it was allowed and to take class from home if that’s where they were safer,” Pickford said.
“Our regular operations have been wildly different for the last 16 months.”
She added the performing arts industry has been hit hard by public health measures, resulting in the studio alternating between closing and opening its doors multiple times during the pandemic. She said this has created a feeling of uncertainty and disappointment among APA’s students and staff.
“We were open for about 10 weeks starting in February and that was just enough time for us to get ready to compete and then we were shut down in April right before the kids performed,” she said. “There was a lot of devastation across the province – our team was a part of that.
“[Our students] were really quite sad to have worked so hard, just to have something taken away so quickly.”
With virtually all restrictions now lifted, the studio is once again able to resume its pre-pandemic programming, which includes competitions and end-of-year recitals. APA also managed to squeeze in a few outdoor showcases and competitions prior to reopening.
On Father’s Day on June 20, APA students presented their Heart Project, which was an end-of-year recital.
“We weren’t too sure what it was going to look like but we knew that we were not going to let these kids down,” Pickford said.
“We knew that we would not take the arts away and that we would dig deep and find another way to deliver.”
The Heart Project consisted of an 11-hour show in Nose Creek Regional Park, with performances every 10 minutes to manage the bustling crowd, according to Pickford. She said the day in the park brought a “wonderful slice of normalcy” for families.
“The students learned a majority of their choreography online. They had one class in person before we did our show,” she said. “It was really a labour of love and the kids who are out there performing, that is just something that is so important to them.”
She added APA’s students also participated in a competition on June 23 at the High River Sunset Drive-In, where Alberta Dance Academy teamed up with the town’s local drive-in to install a stage and LED screen for the kids to perform. Parents of the performers sat in their cars and watched the show like a drive-in movie.
“These kids are out there in the blazing hot sun and they’re just putting it all out there and you know... they’re dusty, they’re dirty, they’re sweating, and they’re smiling so big,” she said.
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