Candice Robillard (centre) and her Thursday evening class don their masks for a group photo. “We only wore masks to take the photo because we couldn’t maintain distance, but do not have to wear masks during class,” said Robillard. Photo supplied

Vancouver Island dance classes billed as female empowerment tool

New Comox Valley business focuses on ‘promoting positive body image’

Candice Robillard has always loved to dance.

Now she wants to help others use the exercise in an effort to promote “positive body image and female empowerment.”

Valley Girls Heels Training & Performance Programs is a new business, operating out of a dance studio at 464 Puntledge Rd. in Courtenay. Robillard said her heels classes are drawing rave reviews.

“I trained in dance since I was in about Grade 2, until I was a teenager, then I transitioned to competitive all-star cheerleading,” said Robillard. “I moved to Edmonton a few years back and ran one of the top dance studios there, and that’s where I fell in love with the heels style – it was one of our most popular classes.”

When she moved back to the Comox Valley in 2017, she realized there was nothing similar being offered.

“So I kind of danced by myself, at the gym, or whatever room they had available. Eventually, I would have friends come dance with me… so I just said, ‘I am bringing it to the valley. We are going to have a heels program.’ And here we are.”

Heels dance is a solo dance technique, characterized by technical footwork, as seen in ballroom, and Latin dance (i.e. salsa). Although it derives its name from the footwear traditionally worn during the performance, Robillard said her classes focus more on personal development than footwear.

“It’s called heels … but it’s more about the style. Whatever shoes you feel comfortable in, you just wear what you like. Then eventually, once you build your confidence, sometimes you move up to trying it in heels… kind of like a transformation.”

Robillard said no experience is necessary and this is not about becoming a ballroom dancer.

“It’s not about what you look like, or your age, or your size, or even how well you dance. It’s just about feeling confident and powerful, and destroying industry stereotypes,” she said. “This is more about kind of stepping out of your comfort zone and forgetting about your insecurities.

“I have people who have never danced before. I have people who say they have two left feet. And then there are some who have dancing experience and this is just a new style for them. But nobody in the room cares about how you look, or how good you dance. We are all there to cheer each other on… just come out and have a great time.”

Robillard’s classes teach the basic choreography of heels dance, with new steps being introduced as the sessions progress.

“I will create a little routine that we learn; we will practise that for a few weeks and then move onto the next one,” she said.

There are six-, eight-, and 10-week sessions available, depending on the day of the week. The next session begins in mid-October.

While there are no drop-in classes currently, Robillard said she is planning to have single session ‘themed’ classes, where people can sign up, try it for a day and see if they like it.

For more information on Valley Girls Heels Training & Performance Programs, check out the Facebook page, the Instagram page, @valleygirlsdance, or via email, valleygirlsdance@gmail.com

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terry.farrell@blackpress.ca

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