Monday, 3 October 2016

Dance is ALWAYS better with a Friend!

One of the best things I remember about my dance experiences growing up are the friendships I made. I spent so many hours at the dance studio honing my skills and diving into my passion. It was the only place where there were others who felt the same way I did about movement.  It was a place where I could be accepted for who I was, no matter what.  I could start my day over at the studio. If I had a rough day at school dance was a fresh start with a different group of people.

I still am very close with many of my dance friends today. Several of them have been there for me during the biggest events in my life. I still seek out mentorship from my own dance teacher (not many people know me better than she does) and we share memories and life regularly.  Having people who have been with you from when you were young through adolescence, your first relationships, into adulthood and parenthood has created a sense of strength and  acceptance in my journey through the arts.

I have asked some of our staff to share their experiences of friendships through dance as well.

I was very nervous my first day of summer school at Alberta Ballet. I didn't know any of the girls, and was very shy. After my first ballet class, however, I met a girl named Sarah. We chatted about how we had the same name (and spelled it the same!), and were both going to the same ballet school in the fall. Turns out we had other things in common, like both having cats, blonde hair, younger brothers by two years, and a secret love of video games! We became very good friends for the rest of the summer program, and continued building our friendship when we both started at the school of Alberta Ballet in the fall. We took the same classes for many years, and had the same passions about ballet and movement. We both loved the ballet 'Swan Lake', the excitement of auditions and exams, and the challenge of some of the choreography we were learning. Finally, we also shared the same professional goals of dancing professionally once we completed the program--a mutual passion that kept us motivated through the most challenging of times. 

Once we both left the school and graduated high school, we stayed good friends over email and MSN messenger communication. Shortly after, I moved out to BC to study at University, and Sarah moved to Edmonton to go to University. Although we weren't aware of it right away, we both chose to study Psychology during our time at University, both developed an interest and passion in dance and academic Education, and both Sarah and I became elementary school teachers! Years later after I moved back to Calgary, Sarah and I finally connected over coffee. Sarah shared her positive experiences and her enjoyment of teaching at the APA studio in Airdrie, but alas how she was planning to move to British Columbia. Long story short, our mutual love and passion for dance, teaching and education led me to the opportunity to teach ballet at APA once Sarah moved to B.C.--an opportunity that has ultimately brought me to this place in time to write this story. In my experience, friendships that are created and nurtured through a dance environment are authentic and life changing. My friendship with Sarah proves to be an enduring connection to a past world that we once shared together, that was formed through mutual passion and love for the art form itself. 

Miss Sarah


I grew up dancing 7 days a week and loved my team and all of my teachers. You grew to be best friends because you spent every waking moment with them. I had a great dance experience and built lifelong memories both in and outside the studio. 

I remember my school friends asking me to go out all the time and they would always say "Wait let me" before I could even answer. I could never attend parties or gatherings with school friends because I had a commitment to dance and to my team. Do I regret this? Not one bit! Some of my favourite memories throughout my life have come back to dance memories and trips/getaways with my dance friends and teachers. It truly is a community that you immerse yourself in fully and it shapes your life and your relationships.

My friends and teachers then are still my friends now. We take dance classes and master classes when we can, I still see them in the dance world ALL the time! We meet individually for coffee when we are in the same town and try to arrange group get togethers. They are truly your best friends for life and I am always proud of the accomplishments they make in life and dance as they are for me. You build those strong friendships young and continue to grow them into adulthood. My dance friends are truly some of the deepest and most fulfilling friendships I have to this day!

Miss Mandy


Friendship is so important. We all seek it and value it. If you know someone who you would love to share the gift of dance with, don't be shy - Tell them about APA! We have a great referral program that the provides you both with a $50 credit to your account for each friend that you refer! Not only do you share great programming with them but you each get a gift from us! Now that is More Than Just Great Dancing!  See you in the classroom.

Much Love,
Miss Tara

Monday, 26 September 2016

Our Story - How APA Became The Great Dance Company It Is Today

Our Story - How APA Became The Great Dance Company It Is Today

Our Ambition - Company Mission
Our Ambition is to be an innovator in dance education, developing friendships and skills for a lifetime.

Our Ambition - Company Vision
We are driven to provide quality lessons in a safe, innovative and enriching environment.  We hold ourselves to a higher standard while putting life skills, community, friendships and family first.  Parents choose APA Dance Studio for our convenient location and friendly service, and welcoming atmosphere. They stay with us because of our commitment to excellence, value, culture and customer care.

Tara Pickford – Bio
Tara Pickford started dancing at the age of 4 and hasn’t sat still since. She has committed to her first passion in life – teaching young people a passion for theatre and dance in her own studio; Ambition Performing Arts Inc. Tara received a Bachelor Degree in Kinesiology, with a major in Mind Sciences, at the University of Calgary. She is a fully certified ADAPT Teacher, Al Gilbert Teacher, and Acrobatic Arts Teacher, and a full member of the Wild Rose Dance Arts Association.

Tara has created award winning choreography for competition and exciting recitals for all ages and abilities. Still in the classroom, teaching all types of dance and all ages from age 1 to pre-professional, she has a strong understanding of all the hard work and the process dancers, teachers, and parents take on to get to the stage and have a great experience.

When she is not with her studio family, she is at home with her two energetic children ages 8 and 11 – both dancers!  She loves to see how every day holds something new and inspiring for her children.  Now that both have started their own journeys in the dance world, Tara has a deeper understanding of what families are entrusting their dance professionals to provide.

Our Story
Ambition Performing Arts Inc is owned solely by me, Tara Pickford. I have been teaching for over 25 years. I have been dancing since I was 4 years old.  Like many parents of four-year-olds, my mother saw me dancing everywhere and thought that a dance class would be fun for me. Little did she know that this would become a huge part of who I am-- a mover through space, with powerful ideas. My journey through the arts has provided me many wonderful experiences, opportunities, friendships for a lifetime and unforgettable memories.  Dance can bring people together, move them to feel and change, but most of all it has the power to create something from where there was nothing before. How amazing is that?!

My journey into dance started much like other kids, first by adding a community dance program alongside my other activities like music and sports. As I grew older and started to make personal choices about my activities, I added more classes, competitions, assistant teaching, and lessons to my dance schedule. When I reached high school, it was time to specialize. I devoured all my time at the studio, training as much as I could taking classes below my level to continue to enrich my training. Assisting whatever classes I could so I could have more time in the studio. It didn’t matter what it was, I was there!

Then after completing my Kinesiology degree, I earned a dance scholarship in Los Angeles only to find out when it was time to move that the school had closed. It was a huge disappointment, but continuing my career in Calgary, I managed to climb the ladder to become fitness manager at the health club where I had been working, overseeing a million-dollar facility and 30+ trainers, all while continuing to teach dance at night. I realized that managing a health club was not the life I wanted. I wanted to create dance programming, not fitness programming.  I set about using my business knowledge from managing the club to open my own school. This school would have the best syllabus available and we would evolve as the world evolved.  Our teaching would use the latest in Kinesiology knowledge to ensure safety and elite progress for learning. We would be body aware and create an environment that defied the standards and stereotypes that existed in the dance industry. Everyone would be treated equally - no matter talent, skill or size. If you earned it you could have it.

I researched facility - flooring and requirements. I toured space after space, looking for the perfect home for my life’s work to grow and be realized.  I created policies and a culture that was healthy and forward thinking. We had great success out of the gates.
I hired certified teachers who were passionate about their jobs and lived the qualities were were trying to instill in our dance family. I opened and dedicated our first season to the memory of Bree, a dear friend of mine who was integral in the original planning stages for the school.

I thought, if one studio was serving so many people so well, I needed more studios. I wanted to serve more people with this same empowering message. I opened our location in Airdrie.  We grew again. Then I opened a third studio. By this time, through untamed growth, the company had become something other than my original message. We had so many teachers that no longer were they hand picked. The customers we had didn’t believe in our message, our service levels dropped, and there were complaints.  I no longer loved my work, then my marriage failed.  Just like when I faced disappointment and tragedy in my life before, it was once again time to re-evaluate. I made some hard changes. I nursed a bruised ego. Never before had I failed - at anything. I had to get up and keep moving. I am a mom of two girls who needed me to do better and live by example.

Fast forward to today. We have one amazing location. We have a strong faculty, we have families that believe in our culture and live our message. I love my job again.  The message is: Bigger is not better. If you cannot serve well, then you are not serving.
I am in love with dance and it loves me back. I will forever be providing children a safe space to grow into who they are meant to be. Whether they become teachers, doctors, lawyers, accountants, contractors or maybe even a professional dancer, that growth all starts with love for yourself. It continues by learning respect for your teachers and community, and life skills provided by training and working hard towards goals, earning your knowledge and embracing life's challenges. Everything that dance provides becomes a skill set used later. Arriving on time, being prepared, remembering your work, working hard, thanking people for providing opportunities, the list goes on.

Children and their development is what we do.  We are creating tomorrow's leaders today.  This is a huge responsibility.  Make sure your kids are spending their time in a quality place that is teaching them about hard work, dedication and that not everything can be bought or instantly gratified. Sometimes it takes hard work and perseverance to get where you want to go.  You need great mentors to provide a safe path to get there. I have created one of those places.

If you made it this far through this post -Thank you. Thank you for allowing our great company to train your child. Thank you for trusting us with your most precious gift. Thank you for believing in our training methods and dedicated teaching professionals.

We don't teach kids to make great dancers, we teach dance to make great kids - WE ARE MORE THAN JUST GREAT DANCING!

See you in the studio!

Much love from my family to yours,

Thursday, 22 September 2016

5 Things to Make Your First Dance Class Spectacular!

5 Things to Make Your First Dance Class Spectacular!
Are you totally new to the dance experience? Do you have a child who is beyond thrilled about the classes they are about to start?  We have put together a few tips to help you ease into a great season in the arts.

1.                 Arrive Early
Please make it a priority to arrive 10 min early for your first class so we can get you settled in before the fun starts. This will allow you to get familiar with the layout of the studio, where to put outdoor shoes and hang your coat and stash your bag.  It also leaves time for a last chance bathroom break. We want to make sure your dancer is totally ready to learn without interruptions to distract them.

You dancer will wait in the lobby with the rest of their class until their teacher opens the door to release one class and invite in the next. They will loudly call out the name of the class. Listen carefully. Of course if you have any questions, our knowledgeable office staff can always help you settle in and provide answers to all your questions.
2.        Have Your Dress Code Ready Before Your First Class
Most classes require a dress code.This is a list of required footwear and clothing needed to participate.  This helps dancers train safely and correctly. Our friendly office staff can help you figure out what your dancer needs for class.

At APA we have a fully stocked dancewear boutique. We truly are the one stop shop. We know families are busy and have limited time. We want to help make your experience at our studio worry free. We have all your shoes, bodysuits and tights in stock year round to help you balance your schedule and spend more time with your family and less time running errands.

If for some reason your dancer will not be attending their first class in dress code - please talk to your child so they know they will be dressed differently than the other dancers in their class. Some children struggle with this and it harms their ability to enjoy the experience.

3.        Have A Positive Attitude And Make Some Friends
Trying something new can be very exciting, but it can also bring about some of those butterflies in your stomach.  Remind your dancer that having a positive attitude towards learning is a great skill to develop. Trying new things is hard but can lead to some great learning experiences and may lead them to discover a passion they would never know they had!

Having a positive attitude and being open to meeting new people and introducing yourself will help you get settled in class and leads to great things! When you have a positive attitude, people are naturally drawn to you. You can’t help but make new friends when you share your joy and positive attitude with others. It is a win win for everyone!
4.        Bring A Smile And Take A Picture On Our Red Carpet
Bring a smile with you not only to class but everywhere you go :) Smiling when you are working on a new skill helps your brain learn faster! Smiling at others attracts new friends! It is always a good idea to smile, even when you are having a bad day!

We have our Red Carpet set up in the lobby the first few weeks of classes to help you capture wonderful memories (and that beautiful smile). It is also a great way to distract your dancer if the nerves are becoming a bit much :)  Many friendships start on our red carpet - you just never know!
5.        Thank Your Teacher And Your Parents
We love teaching our dancers all about respect for themselves and others around them.  You will often find our staff reminding dancers about manners and how others might want to be treated. It is so important to help our dancers understand their impact and that a please and thank you can go a long way!  

After every class it is a dance tradition for dancers to thank their teachers for sharing their knowledge and time.  In return teachers thank their students for being such willing learners.  We also like to encourage the dancers to thank their parents or whoever that special person is who took the time to provide the lessons and get them to and from dance so they can have a wonderful dance experience.

Have a great first class and we are here to help you with any concerns or questions you may have!

Tara Pickford

Here is all the information you need to find the studio:
Ambition Performing Arts Inc.
#205 2002 Luxstone BLVD
(second floor - enter between nail salon and 7-11)

Monday, 19 September 2016

4 Things To Consider When Choosing A Dance School

4 Things To Consider When Choosing A Dance School:

You are receiving this email because you expressed interest in information on our website. This is the first of several informational emails you will receive from us :)

Why Choose Ambition Performing Arts?

If most studios seem to have qualified, friendly teachers, experience teaching children and a big show at the end of the year, aren’t they all the same? Does it really matter which place you choose to enroll at?

YES! There are 4 main things that can make a huge difference in the quality of instruction your child receives, the amount of extra work and hassles parents must deal with and the overall enjoyment and satisfaction of being involved with a dance program.

1. What type of floor is used?

Dance is a very physical activity that requires a lot of jumping, which can put stress on bones and joints. Most dance footwear does not provide any cushioning or support, so the shock of movement can place a large amount of strain on the knees and back of the dancer.

At APA our floors were designed the same as the New York City Ballet. They are constructed with a basket weave triple layer system that will absorb hours or training and jumping. Why is this important? Whether you train once a week or decide to dedicate hours to your craft, our floors will help you maintain a healthy and protected body. Our high quality sound systems, disco balls and professional stage lights are hung in both classrooms! Can you say dance party?! We have them all the time - every week, right in the classroom!

2. What is the size of the class? What is taught? How is it scheduled?

If the class has fewer students, each child will receive more personalized attention, learn more and have more fun. A smaller class size allows the teacher to control the class, allows funda­mental concepts to be explored, and ensures students develop positive habits and proper technique.

We teach all of our classes with proven syllabus and teacher certifications so you can be confident that our APA classrooms are enriched with with our experienced teachers. We ensure balanced lesson plans that promote strength, flexibility and positive body knowledge.  We also offer community performances so our students can give back to the community while increasing their self esteem!
APA also has many classes back to back for dancers and siblings. We will go the extra mile to help you get a schedule your busy family can live with and enjoy. Now that is win win!

3. What are the extras required for classes and dance recital?

Most studios require a dress code for class. This is a list of required footwear and clothing needed to participate.  This helps dancers train safely and correctly.

At APA we have a fully stocked dancewear boutique. We truly are the one stop shop. We know families are busy and have limited time. We want to help make your experience at our studio worry free. We have all your shoes, bodysuits and tights in stock year round to help you balance your schedule and spend more time with your family and less time running errands.

Most studios put on a Dance Recital show in a profes­sional theatre. Students performing in the show must have a costume. Some studios require parents to sew costumes or pay extra for sewing and alterations. This can be frustrating and time consuming for people who are too busy or don’t sew.

The best recital is one where your studio helps you look after all the little details. At APA we make sure your costume is sized properly and ready to go. We look after the expense of alterations and the time of getting it done. It is our goal to ensure our customers always receive top notch service.

4. Can I get customer service?

In many studios the teacher or studio owner conducts the class and does the administration. By trying to do two jobs at once, the class may suffer as the teacher deals with administration during class time, or there may be no customer service available if the teacher is in a class.

At APA we have scheduled office hours 6 days a week with helpful, knowledgable staff. We work hard to help you handle all the details so that you can get back to what is important - fun with your family!  We offer monthly payment plans to help you budget for great classes all year.  With our family friendly culture you can feel great about where your kids hang out and what they learn.

We are always excited to create an exciting journey in the arts for more families.

Tara Pickford

Here is all the information you need to find the studio:
Ambition Performing Arts Inc.
#205 2002 Luxstone BLVD
(second floor - enter between nail salon and 7-11)