The history of Dance Schools in the province stretches back to the 1860s, but modern studios have little in common with the schools of Yesteryear. In fact, it’s fair to say that dance schools today are living, breathing organisms, constantly changing, adding new classes, and exploring new ways of teaching.
Nomad Dance Studio in Stephenville is an incredible example of a modern dance school. This relatively new facility opened just six weeks before the pandemic in 2020. “I think launching the business during this incredibly stressful time forced us to get creative and figure out to survive.” Says owner LouAnn Davis.
Born and raised in Stephenville, Newfoundland, Davis is a music teacher with a Bachelor of Music Therapy and a Masters's degree in Education. Pre-pandemic, she was looking for an artistic outlet and decided to direct and produce a community-wide musical. “In 2018, we did the Lion King Jr, and it was just this incredible thing. We had to add another night of shows, and we sold out, and I just realized that Stephenville wanted more. There was a hunger for performances, and I felt we had to keep going.”
Davis and her husband crafted a ten-year plan. “I wanted to do more musicals, but there was no dance studio here. So, we made a ten-year plan”. She laughs. “Then we jumped into it and decided to open the studio in February 2020, just six weeks before the pandemic.”
The team at Nomad, Davis is quick to tell you, is one of the reasons behind its success. She currently works with seven instructors that teach everything from ballet to costume and prop design. “I hired someone for an interim eight weeks during the pandemic, and he loved the community, so he’s stayed. I have my full-time instructor Anastasia Rudenko and her husband, Roman Rudenko, who teaches part-time. There’s a big team of people making this happen. Alba Chen directs our music program…yeah, there’s a team.”
Nomad Stages also offers STEAM classes. “Sometimes people really go out of their way to see science and the arts as these separate categories, but I see a huge connection. So, our science classes involve hands-on experiments; we just wanted to build that into the curriculum. Our Steam instructor Candace McFatridge has a background in science and technology, she’s so creative. We’re thrilled to offer these classes.”
Although Davis started by pulling off a musical with youth actors and is still crafting several of those a year, she’s recently transitioned to musicals involving adult performers. Seeing confidence build in new performers is one of her favorite parts of the job. “Thanks to the Stephenville Theatre Festival, we’ve always had a big arts community, but we needed these additional programs. It’s amazing to see people grow into performing–it changes every aspect of who they are. Suddenly, they’re crossing paths with new people and making new friendships.”
Nomad Stages is performing Chicago at the Stephenville Arts and Culture Centre on May 6th and 7th. They are also excited to announce they are expanding their business and will begin trial classes in Deer Lake this June.
“It’s crucial for me to think that we’re not just teaching ballet or tap; we’re trying to help people develop into strong leaders.”
Ballet is taking over Newfoundland and Labrador, explore more about ballet in our province through our ballet portal. Or visit our Ballet Kelowna Tour page, touring from May 12 to May 30 with Kittiwake Dance Theatre at select locations.