Local dance academy helps residents finesse their footwork

The Sun Peaks Academy of Dance, now in its fifth year of operation, continues to expand its programs and bring in new instructors.
A black and white photo of four children in ballet skirts in the Sun Peaks Academy of Dance studio. Only the children's legs are shown.
The Sun Peaks Dance Academy, operational since 2018, has lessons for learners of all ages in a variety of dance genres. Photo courtesy of Karen Mallinson.

Since 2018, Karen Mallinson has been giving light-footed locals the chance to dance. 

At the Sun Peaks Academy of Dance, kids and adults are taught a variety of genres including ballet, jazz, and musical theatre.

Mallinson, a professional dancer who’s performed in North America and Europe, is originally from the U.K., where she qualified as a registered Royal Academy of Dance teacher. 

She first moved to Canada in 2008 and taught dance in the Lower Mainland area for a decade before moving to Sun Peaks and launching the academy five years ago.

“When we decided to move to Sun Peaks I wanted to carry on teaching as dance has always been a huge part of my life,” she told SPIN. “I also wanted to bring dance to this wonderful mountain community and things have grown over the last five years.”

Since the pandemic pause, the academy has expanded beyond its original six and eight-week sessions. The schedule now includes a September through June weekly youth program. 

“As more young families have joined the community, student numbers have risen,” she explained.

Now, the academy holds two weekly youth classes for kids ages five through 10 as well as a weekly teen private class. Responding to the demand for activities for the under fives, Mallinson also launched a six-week preschooler program this winter but says youth classes still fill up quickly. 

Classes for adult dancers are also proving popular, the most recent being a six-week adult jazz class. This winter the adult jazz teacher is Lucy Sopp, who is visiting from the U.K. With a degree in dance, Sopp is learning to ski while teaching various dance, singing and musical theatre classes and workshops at the academy. 

“[Sopp] reached out to me before she arrived in Sun Peaks to work here for the season,” Mallinson explained. “The students and I love having her around the academy.” 

In order to offer a wider range of skills, Mallinson is always on the lookout for talented teachers and often hosts international guest teachers.

“I think everyone has something different to offer,” she explained. “It’s great our dancers have the opportunity to learn from dancers and teachers all over the world.”

Last Christmas was a landmark for the academy when students got together to show off their skills at a performance for friends and family for the first time since the pandemic. 

Dancers have also performed at the resort’s Canada Day celebrations in the past, with another recital scheduled for June. 

Typically, classes follow the school calendar, finishing the third term of the school year at the end of June. But the academy will offer a few dance opportunities this summer including a preschool class and, depending on demand, an adult program. 

The combination of music and dance is a “wonderful gift,” Mallinson said. 

“Dance is for everyone — no matter where you’re from or what you look like, dance brings us together,” she added.

Starting in September, the Sun Peaks Academy of Dance will offer weekly youth classes, six and eight-week sessions for adults and preschoolers and different drop-in classes. More details can be found online at www.sunpeaksad.ca.

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