When indoor fitness came to a halt and classes were moved online last spring, Accentz Dance Studio director Becky Martselos wasn’t sure what the next year would bring for her students. But Martselos’ dancers rallied around their community. They remained dedicated to dance even when it meant spending hours practicing alone in their bedrooms.
“We really are a family. Some of the dancers spend as much time in the studio as they do at home,” says Martselos. “It’s amazing to see them growing into these beautiful women inside and out that have gained confidence through dance. That support and confidence comes from other students.”
As the dancers celebrate the beauty of the Okanagan with outdoor videos for their virtual recital, Accentz Dance Studio is ready for its family to get a little bit bigger.
Through a new Dance Academy through School District 22 (SD22) developed and led by Accentz Dance Studio director Becky Martselos, local dancers can put their passion to work for high school credits and grow into Accentz’ welcoming community of dedicated dancers.
Starting in September, 14 students from SD22 in Grades 8-12 will spend half-days training with Martselos and Accentz Dance Studio instructors as part of their curriculum.
“The students come to us with dance backgrounds. It’s not an elective subject where students can decide, ‘I’m going to learn to dance,’ at 16,” says Martselos.
Martselos and Accentz’ team of 16 dance instructors will work with students to find opportunities for individual growth. Students will set personal goals at the beginning of the course and have weekly check-ins with instructors to measure their progress.
“For the past 18 months, I’ve been talking with vLearn. In December, I proposed an official Dance Academy attached to the school district to the school board trustees,” says Martselos. “And, after three months of back and forth with the District Parent Advisory Council (DPAC) and trustees, it was accepted.”
But dancing, while the focus of the program, is only part of the new academy.
As Martselos prepares for hip surgery, she understands the need for injury prevention training.
“Physiotherapists will be in the class every other week to talk about injury prevention, training for longevity, and just taking care of the developing body to lessen the risk of injury,” says Martselos. “We’ll keep their bodies nice and healthy as we train because it’s so important.”
Before starting SD22’s Dance Academy, Martselos and Accentz Dance Studio worked with School District 83 to offer a day program. Through the program, students spent five hours per week in the studio pursuing dance as an elective instead of traditional electives like woodworking or drama.
But, after running the program for a few years, Martselos noticed a flaw: only her current students were exposed to the day program.
“I just thought, there are kids at other studios that can really benefit from this and should be able to take advantage of the programming. Only, it wouldn’t be right for me to go to these studios because it might feel like I’m taking their students,” says Martselos. “I felt like I needed a bigger umbrella to operate under.”
In preparation for its inaugural year, Accentz’ Dance Academy will see six students from other studios and dancers moving to the area from the Lower Mainland and Kootenays.
“I’m in the process of working with the foreign student coordinator because I feel it would be an excellent program for exchange students,” says Martselos. “They’ll come straight into a community they’re familiar with. They’ll be embraced and supported right away by friends.”
Martselos’ own community, outside of Accentz Dance Studio, is a significant motivator in the studio’s growth.
While at a three-day training conference for dance instructors in Vancouver, Martselos received an email from Community Futures North Okanagan about a new program aimed at women in business. Called Momentum, the accelerator program connects like-minded and growth-focused entrepreneurs with resources and government funding to reach their business goals.
“I knew Momentum was what I really wanted. It was a no-brainer for me,” says Martselos.
Through the program, Martselos secured funding to build a new website, hire a professional photographer, and engage a lawyer. Beyond the funding, Martselos says the real strength of the program is in the connections between members.
“Even though I am the only dance or fitness studio in Momentum, everything we discuss applies. Whether you’re welding or picking fruit, you’ll learn something, and having an all-women group is amazingly supportive,” says Martselos.
“I’m so grateful to have spent the last two years growing with these women.”
Are you interested in learning more about Momentum? Visit CF North Okanagan online at futuresbc.com.