All they want to do is dance. So for the past 36 years, members of the St. Paul Ukrainian Dance Club have been practicing in school gyms, classrooms, local halls, and anywhere else the club could find to rent.
Unfortunately, club president Bev Chomlak explains, when other activities, sports or events would get booked at those locations, “we got booted out. So we’d be left scrambling looking for a place to dance.”
This year brought an exciting new change, the most exciting year Chomlak says she’s seen in the past 11 years she’s been with the club. The club now has a permanent studio, something Chomlak says has made people “relieved that we do have a spot we can call home,” while at the same time, “overwhelmed with the amount of work we’re going to have to do.”
“We’ve been looking for a facility for years,” says treasurer for the club Marilyn Chamberland. But Chomlak adds that it was only in the past year or so that things reached a tipping point, due to the frustration of club members and parents at the constant upheaval. She credits the hard work of club vice-president Crystal St. Arnault for driving around town and scouting locations before finding the club’s future studio, located at the back of Smitty’s Restaurant.
Thanks to a deal struck up with the strip mall’s owner, the club will lease the roughly 4,500 sq. ft space, but there’s a lot of work to be done before the studio opens its doors to dancers and the start of placement classes in October.
Since the now open space will be divided into two dance studios, a waiting area and a costume storage room, volunteers will have to do framing, insulation, drywall and flooring.
“The kids need to dance on appropriate flooring,” said Chomlak, adding that while dancing on schools’ hardwood gyms is fine, it’s not ideal. The new professional dance flooring will be more springy, “so it’s got give when the kids are dancing.”
Other groups could be interested in renting the space too, she notes.
But it doesn’t come without a cost. Although volunteers will do the labour, the club will still have to find an estimated $31,000 to purchase materials, with the main cost being flooring, at $17,000. The club is applying for a Community Initiatives Program, a matching grant through the province of Alberta. At the same time, the club will also be sending out letters to businesses, asking for support for the project.
“A lot of businesses and community groups have had kids that have danced, or have kids that are dancing, or have kids that will dance,” says Chomlak, adding this means people have a real incentive to contribute to the cause. “I think it’s an investment in the community.”