For more than three decades, hundreds of youth discovered performing arts through St. Albert Children’s Theatre.
As young artists developed their talent, they built confidence and enriched not only their lives, but those of the community as well.
Working as a tight team, the theatre troupe fosters a high-energy atmosphere that inspires young artists to reach their full potential.
About five years ago, SACT artistic director Janice Flower and SACT resident choreographer Jackie Pooke also undertook to administer the City of St. Albert’s Cultural Services' performing arts classes.
“It made sense to shift the performing arts classes under our umbrella,” said Flower, noting the city was already programming acting and musical theatre classes for youth.
They were structured to offer children and youth a sampling of theatre in a safe, welcoming environment. Seeing an opportunity to reach a broader mix of individuals, Flower and Pooke expanded classes targeting newborns to seniors.
“We added more age groups such as Broadway Babies and more acting classes for adults, and gradually we started to fill other disciplines into the mix,” Flower said.
The younger groups from six to 10 boast the highest attendance.
“At that point, parents are trying to find what kids like. Eventually some are confident enough to audition for shows. The classes are a great way to dip their feet in the shallow end," she explained.
"If they like it, they can keep going and take acting classes. And if they audition, they are better prepared. It’s not just building confidence. It’s finding the skills to problem solve in every walk of life.”
The latest add-ons are tap dance for children and adults, as well as chair tap for adults with mobility issues.
“A lot of places offer dance, but very few studios offer it in a non-competitive format. Most dance studios put kids in classes according to age. We’re more about ability than age,” said Flower.
Youth serious about musical theatre have shown an interest in taking supplementary dance classes outside of regular rehearsal hours.
“In a class, they learn dance technique as opposed to just learning to dance a few steps. If you have more technique, it makes you a more well-rounded performer,” said Pooke, whose major goal is to provide an enjoyable experience and give her students a sense of accomplishment.
In fact, the fall adult tap class was so successful there was a higher demand than what could be accommodated. On the opposite side of the coin, tap classes for six- to 17-year-olds was under-booked.
“We didn’t get enough advertising. It’s not a matter of kids not wanting to take it. It’s just the word didn’t get out,” Flower explained.
Adult musical theatre is also slowly picking up steam. But the hesitancy may in part be due to some adults’ shyness about singing in public.
“My philosophy is if you can talk, you can sing. If you have the desire, if you want to try, there are all kinds of classes to try out,” Flower said.
At the other end of the spectrum, the Let’s Start baby classes for newborns to 24 months focuses more on parents.
“It helps parents learn how to teach new activities and encourage creative play. It’s theatre based on tons of songs and the imagination."
Broadway Babies for energetic toddlers and preschoolers from ages two to five years steps up the moves and grooves.
Twelve classes are intended for the six- to 18-year-old category. They explore tap dance, musical theatre dance, acting and improvisation.
Improv is another class teens are lapping up. This year, Stephanie Wolfe, a long-standing contributor to Die-Nasty, will teach both adult and teen improv classes.
“She has tons of experience. She’s been doing it a long time. She understands actors and she’s been great with our students,” said Flower. “Improv is great in that it helps build confidence with anyone doing public speaking. It also helps us think and speak spontaneously.”
For both Flower and Pooke, the class training is as much about creative expression as building self-esteem.
Class sessions range from $144 to $171 depending on length and duration. They are held at Performing Arts Space in Campbell Park, #105 – 125 Carleton Dr.
Online registration is available at Servus Place or Fountain Park Pool. For inquiries, call Flower at 780-459-1695 or Pooke at 780-459-1755 ext 4238.