A unique Airdrie-based performing arts school that opened last summer has weathered the ups and downs of the COVID-19 pandemic in its first year of operations, and is looking forward to enhanced offerings as it kicks off its second season.
The Zanni Performing Arts school, founded by Airdrie residents Giovanni Macagnino and his wife Karen in 2020, focuses on inspiring creativity and freedom of expression among participants, while teaching the core subjects of movement, voice and acting.
According to Macagnino, Zanni doesn’t implement a strict curriculum or prescribed levels. Instead, the students are encouraged to discover their inner performer, rather than one imposed from the outside.
“It’s all about the fun of performance, learning to perform,” he said. “No competition – just enjoying yourself as a performer so what’s inside comes out. That’s how I started in performing as a kid.
“Kids have this amazing creativity inside them. The last thing I want to do is crush that by forcing them into some strict set syllabus.”
Macagnino and his wife, originally from the United Kingdom, moved to Canada in 2006. Both are longtime performers, specializing in comedy and dance. According to Macagnino, all instructors at Zanni have experience performing on stage or on screen and are industry professionals.
While Zanni previously hosted its classes and workshops at the Airdrie Christian Academy, he said the school has recently signed a contract with Genesis Place Recreation Centre to use some of the facility’s upstairs workrooms this year.
With the extra room, the school will be doubling the number of classes on offer, which will increase the number of students who can register for workshops and classes. Macagnino added plans are already in place for the school’s winter production, with teachers building toward the end-of-year show, which he added will be “great fun.”
Aside from Zanni’s core programming, they will be hosting “Intermezzi” workshops monthly to provide students training in a variety of disciplines, including stunt choreography, stage fighting, and improvisation.
“Zanni is about allowing the kids in a safe environment to be themselves and to allow their expression,” Macagnino said. “That for me is the main thing. Kids are allowed to be themselves. It’s really important to recognize what they’ve got and allow them to flourish.”
He added that being a parent to three girls and a principal of a performing arts school has given him some insight into the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on young people’s mental health.
“One thing I’ve been amazed at this year is how well young people have dealt with this thing that they have no idea what is going on. Even as adults, we didn’t know how to handle it,” he said. “Children have been affected in a harder way, but hopefully being able to open up, they can mend what has cracked or broken.”
He added Zanni will be hosting a free “meet n’ greet n’ try-it” event on Aug 7, which he said has been very successful when hosted in the past. The event will provide an opportunity for kids to try out a little bit of everything and for families to meet with the instructors.
According to Macagnino, last year’s event was full, so he advised those interested to register early by messaging Zanni on social media or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, families are encouraged to register for classes at Zanni’s website, zanniperformingarts.com
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