Emily Vance photo Shari Selva stands with the level two classical ballet performance team. The Qualicum Beach School of Dance is celebrating 20 years in September 2019.

Dancing through the years: Qualicum Beach School of Dance turns 20

Founder and owner Shari Selva reflects on years of memories, growth

The Qualicum Beach School of Dance is celebrating 20 years of teaching dance in the Parksville-Qualicum Beach area.

Owner and founder Shari Selva began the school by renting a room in the Civic Centre in September of 1999.

Back then, she taught approximately 20 students and hosted classes twice a week, driving from Port Alberni to teach.

She had been a dance teacher for seven years at that point, and wanted to build something of her own. Qualicum Beach didn’t have a dance school at the time, and seemed like a good location to start.

“I wanted to really start from scratch, and build something up from scratch. So that’s what I did,” said Selva.

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She now teaches out of the Qualicum Commons building on Primrose Road in Qualicum Beach. The school offers classical ballet, jazz, hip-hop, acro and musical theatre.

Like most new businesses, it was slow going at first, but now the school’s momentum is going strong. Selva says enrolment this year is the highest they’ve ever had.

“Qualicum [Beach] has a reputation for being a retirement community, so finding the kids, getting them interested, and getting a following of people that want to be loyal and stay loyal and continue coming back has been a bit of a challenge. I think it’s good now,” said Selva.

“It’s funny after 20 years — maybe with all of our advertising and Instagram, social media really helped to connect us with young families and kids that want to dance. So we have a very amazing enrollment this year.”

Selva’s momentum is going strong too- she was nominated for Qualicum Beach Citizen of the Year in 2018, and the school was nominated for Business of the Year in 2018 as well.

Selva employs five additional teachers — Lynda Allen, Jennifer Kelly, Kayla Ladoucer, Cassandra Naud, Rebecca McLane and Emma Dewar.

“They’re all super highly trained, and educated, they know what they’re doing, they’re current,” said Selva.

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Despite the different locations over the years, she says one thing has remained constant — the joy her students get out of dance, and the joy she gets from watching them excel.

“They still stay the same. Even with technology coming and going — when you see the way they learn, and when they connect with the joy of movement and dance, it just still feels as great as it did from back then,” said Selva.

“When they love it, and it works, and they connect with dance, and they grow, and improve and excel, it’s just the same feeling year after year. It still feels great.”

A large part of that joy is watching students grow, evolve and change over the years.

“It’s actually very cool. Because a lot of my students spend more time with me at the studio after school then they even do at home. So we become — we have such a great relationship. I kind of am like a second mom to them,” said Selva.

For the first time this year, Selva can now claim she’s taught two generations of Qualicum Beach dancers. One of her former students just enrolled her young daughter into the preschool ballet class.

“It was amazing to watch her, as a mom, bring her daughter into class. It was kind of a cool moment,” said Selva.

As for what the school has upcoming this year — Selva says to keep an eye out for their annual fundraiser, which will be back for a fifth year in 2020.

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