Once a dancer, always a dancer — anyone who’s spent long hours rehearsing in the studio or performing on stage can relate.
But when young dancers graduate from high school or move away from home to pursue new dreams, opportunities to keep practising and performing at a competitive level are often limited.
That isn’t the case at Ryerson.
Dance Pak, the university’s decade-old competitive dance team, gives talented, non-dance majors the ability to continue doing what they love.
Krista Lynn Speller founded Dance Pak in 2004. Although she graduated in 2008, she remains involved as the team’s coach and has seen its competitive success flourish from the first number.
“The season in general was a lot smaller (in the beginning),” she said. “We competed in two competitions with one routine. Now we usually take about 10 to 13 routines (to competitions).”
Dance Pak consists of about 13 members and competes in three to four competitions each spring. The team also performs at almost every home game for men’s and women’s basketball. Club members have experience with a variety of styles, but they usually compete in the jazz, lyrical and contemporary categories.
Since its formation, the team has grown increasingly successful; last year, Dance Pak was the highest-scoring team at three of the four competitions it participated in.
“Last year, we just had the most fabulous year, and we just want to take that momentum and keep going with it this year,” Speller said. “New doors have opened…we’re really excited.”
Dance Pak’s achievements can undoubtedly be attributed to the immense dedication and spirit shown by its members; the team practises one weekday evening and up to seven hours on Sundays.
Perhaps more important than competing, however, is the team’s love and appreciation for the art form itself.
Co-captain Madie Hayhoe decided not to dance during her first year at Ryerson but quickly noticed that something was missing from her daily routine.
“That was the first year in 11 years that I didn’t dance, and that’s when I realized how much a part of my life it is,” she said.
A radio-and-television-arts student who’s been on the team for three years, Hayhoe said that Dance Pak allows her to bond with new students and help them adjust to university life. It is also a place where she can do what she’s passionate about with like-minded individuals, Hayhoe said.
Laura Gowling, a first-year retail-management student and newcomer to Dance Pak, said she would like to remain a member of the team throughout her time at Ryerson, citing similar sentiments to Hayhoe.
“It’d be nice just to keep dance in my life as long as I can,” she said.
With the team’s first basketball game performance coming up in October, this year’s troupe — about half of which are new members — has already hit the studio to work on new routines.
Dance Pak plans to attend four competitions next March, and has been approached to perform at a volleyball game for the 2015 Toronto Pan Am/Parapan Am Games. The team was also recently featured on City’s Breakfast Television.
This story is part of a series. Every day this week, The Ryersonian showcases one of Ryerson’s clubs to highlight what it’s all about.