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.
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,