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Royal Academy of Dance highlights mid-Island dance icon

Margaret Carlson taught dance in the CowichanValley from 1954 to 1997
The Valley’s Margaret Carlson was honoured by the Royal Academy of Dance last year as the prestigious institution celebrates its 100th anniversary. (Submitted photo)

A resident of the Cowichan Valley was honoured by the Royal Academy of Dance, located in London, England, last fall as the prestigious institution celebrates its 100th anniversary.

Margaret Carlson, who died in 1997, taught dance in the Valley from 1954 to 1997 and ran the still operating Carlson’s School of Dance.

The first year Margaret entered students under the Royal Academy of Dance’s syllabus for ballet exams was in 1964.

D. Gwen Carlson-Redcliffe, Margaret’s daughter, fellow dance teacher and a life member of the RAD after 40 years of membership, said as part of the RAD’s centennial celebrations, the experiences of members of the academy have been shared on the website within a section called the “RAD Voices”.

“Every month, we celebrate the extraordinary people from the past and present that have shaped the RAD and continue to support and shape the future,” Carlson-Redcliffe said.

“My biography of my mother, ‘Mrs. C’, was chosen for October. She is one of just eight Canadians in the 106 countries that participated.”

Margaret, who was referred to as the Cowichan Valley’s matriarch of dance when she died, trained as a youth under some of the best dancing instructors of the time and opened the Duncan Studio of Dancing in 1954 with her friend Irene Thorton, and then ran Carlson’s School of Dance until her sudden death in 1997.

Carlson-Redcliffe said that’s when she rejoined Carlson’s School of Dance, commuting from Vancouver to become the new owner and its artistic director until 2000.

“I had encouraging support from Carlson’s teachers, studio secretaries, assistants, students and their families,” she said.

“Carlson’s continued to offer a friendly, safe and inspiring environment for our students and teachers. By the year 2000, I had great confidence that, under the stewardship of the new owners, who were also teachers at Carlson’s, the studio would be assured a successful and sustainable entry into the 21st Century.”

Carlson-Redcliffe also thanked the current leadership and teachers at Carlson’s School of Dance who have continued to offer instruction through the COVID-19 pandemic.

She said the school offers pandemic protocols and provides the option of Zoom for its pupils, and she has been taking some classes herself.

“Even in times of adversity, the dance goes on,” Carlson-Redcliffe.

“In the comfort of my own home, especially when we had the cold snap, it was a pleasure to execute the ballet barre exercises holding on to my kitchen sink.”