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Academy of Performing Arts: 30 years in Orangeville

June 15, 2023   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

Suzy Stiperski was very pleased to tell the Citizen that the Academy of Performing Arts, located at 133 Broadway, has taught dance and performing arts for 30 years.

They prepared the building at 71 Broadway over the summer and opened in September 1993 until 2004. Then, the Academy was moved to its current location at 133 Broadway. Said Ms. Stiperski, “It’s wonderful to see students coming back with their kids. It’s kind of cool see the kids’ similarities to their parents.”

She laughed, “I’ve called them by their parents’ names sometimes.”

As a mentor for a university student in a dance program, she gave us the answer to her first opening the Academy as she gave to the question the university asked, “I believe the ways of teaching a healthy dance is a particular philosophy: beside proper technique, using a healthy dance program is to provide a safe environment, to experiment and to share the movement and the story with no judgement; sharing emotion and telling stories.”

Ms. Stiperski’s daughter is in the dance program at university, having finished her Batchelor of Fine Arts (BFA); she is also participating at the studio. This year, she has done some choreography and teaching.

“Her name is Maya Erwin,” Ms. Stiperski told us lightly. “I didn’t have any Mayas in the studio when I had her.”

Her own background: “I danced in a studio in Brampton as a kid and was involved in drama at Mayfield Secondary School and did festivals, that sort of thing.”

She attended the dance program at Toronto Metropolitan University [formerly Ryerson University], training in “what they called the triple threat [singing, dancing and acting].”

When she opened the Academy, it was the first one to include singing and acting and dancing in Orangeville, with a focus on Musical Theatre.

“We still do musicals,” she said. “And every year we gave back to the community by singing and performing at the Santa Claus parade, fashion shows, Memory Lane; all kinds of things in the town – the fall fair.” 

Her family’s business for many years is Royal Appliances here in town, which has kept her connected to Orangeville. With her knowledge and experience in dance and performance, she wanted to share all that with this community and future generations here. 

What inspired her was, starting at the age of 14, she was teaching and realizing that she had a gift. In Orangeville, there were no studios that did both dance and performance, as she had been teaching for other dance studios in a number of towns. 

“I felt I have something to give,” she commented. “And we still do – a hundred per cent.”

At the reasonably young age of 23, when she started her business, she had a grounding in business from her parents.

Like the rest of the world, the Academy struggled through the COVID-19 pandemic, and she told the Citizen that her clientele is “amazing.” Teachers and students did online classes and Zoom. Once people could return with restrictive protocols, they had to do everything that they did in the studio as required with masks and keeping their distance but made it possible, made it fun.

“Longevity influences clientele,” she noted, “but Covid did a number on the arts for everyone.”

Her ambition for the studio is, most importantly, to create a space that is safe, respectful and fun for any age or level of student. Ms. Stiperski loves to share the fun of movement. She feels that discipline (in ballet, for example) creates self-discipline and respect. It places responsibility on young people to get ready for a recital, with their costumes, shoes, and makeup, to have the commitment to their classmates to be there on time.

Noting, “Dancing shouldn’t be all in life – feeling, touching, doing other things is important in order to bring life to dance on stage.”

Admitting that Covid has temporarily changed attitudes, she believes people are realizing “what it’s all about again.” Posing, “As a leader you have to be positive.”

The Academy of Performing Arts offers adult classes, too, like Adult Ballet for strength, balance and grace, for ages 18 and up to all ages, as long as students are able.

She made the point that everyone works at their own pace; she teaches and demonstrates the steps and movement, advising us of the importance of moving every day and keep moving.

When asked why people should care about bringing their children to learn, her answer was, “They will care if I care. When I see those young faces how much pride they feel when they do their dance well, the praise they get from their own family and friends and the audience; when they achieve those little accomplishments of developing and growing, it means so much.”

 The Academy’s schedule runs from September to June. Once the dancers see the progress they have made over the season, they start realizing what happens when they work at it.

The Academy is holding its annual recital this Saturday, June 17, at the Erin Centre 2000, starting at 3:00 pm. Pre-registration for classes begins next week.

There is a program as well of summer camps, beginning July 6.

The email is for tickets, registration and summer camps.

As a final word, Suzi Stiperski added, “Next week we have open classes. People can come and try a free class next. I’d like them to try a class first so they can register for the one that suits best. Open classes are next week from Monday to Thursday.” 

Check it all out at the website or call the studio at 519-941 4103.

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