Huntsville’s all-abilities dance troupe inspires winning photograph


“It brought tears to my eyes. My two worlds collided,” enthused Andrea Johnston, Manager of Quality and Community Development for Community Living Huntsville, when describing an all-abilities dance troupe she was fortunate to see perform at a conference in Ottawa. “Dance has always been in my life. In my head I knew what I wanted to do.”

And do it she did.

On her return to Huntsville, Andrea and her two daughters, along with a supported client of Community Living Huntsville, planned some choreography and made a dance video. They showed their amateur work to Tasha Bryant, a professional dancer performing in Deerhurst’s Decades show who also teaches at the Muskoka Dance Academy. Tasha didn’t hesitate to take on the role of dance instructor for the budding troupe because removing barriers was something she strongly believed in.

With a District of Muskoka ‘Pay-It-Forward’ grant, 20-30 keen dancers met with Tasha at Pine Glen School once a week to hone their craft.

Some of the people didn’t have any dance experience, but they all had a love of dance, regardless of their ability or disability. Andrea Johnston

Fast forward a few months and Huntsville’s own all-abilities dance troupe was performing at Nuit Blanche North in downtown Huntsville.

As Andrea describes it, things just fell into place. “I connected with Dan Watson and he saw the potential of the dance troupe performing for Nuit Blanche North. We were to be an installation,” she laughed.

With the Muskoka Rock Choir and Sean Cotton performing Sean’s original piece, Spread the Word, the all-abilities dance troupe took to Huntsville’s Main Street during the July event. In all, 44 people performed to a huge crowd. The dance troupe wore white; the choir dressed in black.

And it just keeps getting better.

There to capture the moment on film was Helena Renwick, BIA Executive Director and member of the Huntsville Festival of the Arts. Andrea loved the photo and submitted it to a contest sponsored by Community Living Ontario. The photo won! Or as Helena puts it, ‘”We won. That’s why I donated the prize back to Community Living Huntsville, because we won!”

Andrea Johnston, Community Living Huntsville, and Helena Renwick, Huntsville BIA

Helena Renwick (r) presents Community Living Huntsville’s Andrea Johnston with the iPad Mini she won

The prize was an iPad Mini. It will be a raffle prize at the Autumn Annual Brunch, a major fundraiser for Community Living Huntsville. Proceeds from the brunch will, in part, enable the dance troupe to continue practicing and performing. The brunch is on October 4 at the Mark O’Meara Clubhouse.

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