Dance workshops cater to young performers

Matt Gardner
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A professional dance instructor who previously taught backup dancers for Lady Gaga has returned to Prince Albert to share her knowledge with local performers.

The owner/operator and artistic director of High Fidelity Dance Arts, Crystal Tkach is currently gearing up for an upcoming series of workshops targeted at young dancers.

Starting this weekend and running through March at Physio Fit Therapy and Fitness, the workshop series -- entitled Performing the Gap -- will focus primarily on jazz and lyrical dance techniques.

“I actually want to specifically kind of hone in on performing,” Tkach said.

“‘Performing the gap,’ to me, is all the little areas of your dance training and of your dancing and of your classroom time and of your studio time that you can make the most of.”

Reflecting upon her experience training professionals such as Lady Gaga’s dancers, Tkach noted, “When I think back to maybe what made their training special, I always try to optimize all those … quiet moments of movements, or making the most of every second that you're on stage and being able to give that to younger students in a very easy way.”

This weekend’s workshops include a class for junior dancers (ages seven to 11 or one year’s experience) on Saturday and one for intermediate and senior dancers (ages 12 and up or three years’ experience) on Sunday.

In addition to junior and intermediate/senior classes, later weekends -- including Feb. 22-23, March 1-2, March 15-16 and March 22-23 -- will also offer classes for students between the ages of three and six years old.

“They’ll learn a little bit of basic motor skills and then we’ll rock out to some music and we’ll do some travelling movements, and we’ll learn a little cute dance to show … parents when they come and pick them up,” Tkach said of the latter.

Though currently focused on dance instruction, Tkach -- who attended École Vickers School before beginning professional dance training at the age of 12 -- has worked in fields ranging from education to acting and modelling.

A graduate of Carlton Comprehensive High School and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet teacher’s course with a diploma in applied anatomy and physiology for dancers, Tkach worked in Toronto as an editorial and cover model from 2004 to 2006 and was cast as a host for the MTV reality show Next while living in Los Angeles.

From 2006 to 2007 she danced professionally aboard the Caribbean Princess cruise ship. Besides appearing in numerous feature films and music videos, Tkach has also engaged in singing and voice-over work as a member of the Dare to Dance Company.

Lyrical (dance) is something I’m extremely passionate about and I really want kids to be able to express themselves in a way that’s non-verbal. Crystal Tkach

Her approach to dance instruction draws in part upon techniques honed during her 10 seasons on the faculty of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School and as an arts educator for the Learning Through The Arts program.

“I used to go into inner-city schools in Winnipeg and teach inner-city kids that had never stepped foot in a dance studio and had never done any kind of movement at all and tried to get them to perform,” Tkach said.

“(It) taught me everything that I put into my dance training now … I used to teach them how their emotions would be, how to bring that out in their movements.”

Teaching students how to express their emotions through physical movement, she noted, is the essence of lyrical dance.

“Lyrical is something I’m extremely passionate about and I really want kids to be able to express themselves in a way that’s non-verbal, because I think that’s really important,” Tkach said.

“Not all kids are talkers and not all kids are going to tell you exactly how they feel, so if I can give them a way to bring that out and bring out some of those feelings or some of the things that they’re going through in their lives through their dancing, then I think we have happier kids on our hand.”

In planning out the upcoming workshops, Tkach has taken a concurrent approach, providing a brief review of previous lessons at each class for those who may not have attended earlier.

A key element of her teaching strategy is maintaining open communication with even her youngest students, allowing them to offer their own input in aspects such as song selection.

“I’ll pick out maybe five or six songs, but I’ll let the child decide,” Tkach said. “I don’t care if they’re six years old and I don’t care if they're 18 years old -- they’ll pick their own piece of music, because if they pick it then I know that it speaks to them and they’ll be able to interpret it.

“So we’ll be … sampling all of that kind of stuff over the next … five weeks of classes.”

Junior classes cost $40 and intermediate/senior classes cost $50, with students who sign up for additional workshops receiving a $10 discount for subsequent classes.

Registration forms are available at Physio Fit or by contacting Tkach at (306) 764-3479 or

Organizations: École Vickers School, Carlton Comprehensive High School, MTV Dance Company Royal Winnipeg Ballet School

Geographic location: Winnipeg, Toronto, Los Angeles

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