LETHBRIDGE,AALTA. -- A group of Lethbridge dancers are coming together to help save their dance studio, which has been severely impacted by COVID-19 closures and restrictions.

The dancers are making donations and have started a crowd funding campaign to make sure the company doesn’t close.

Taunya Pickles said she joined the Ammena Dance Company about five years ago, and has been dancing their ever since.

“The people that are involved are like my dance family,” said Pickles, who said the people she has met through the studio have provided a sense of community, connectedness and acceptance that she had never experienced before.

“I just wasn’t ready to let the studio close,” she added.

Pickles helped to set up a GoFundMe campaign called “Don't let this be our Last Dance with Ammena”.

Ammena Dance

Largest dance school

The Ammena Dance Company was started 15 years ago, by Lise-Anne Talhami. Since then it has grown to become Lethbridge's largest dance school for adults, offering students of all ages and abilities to explore the connection between music, personal expression and movement.

“We’ve lost a lot of students so the studio isn’t doing very well right at the moment,” confirmed Talhami.

The studio is allowed to teach dancing one on one, but most of their instruction is happening through Zoom classes.

Talhami said many students have found it’s not the same experience at home because they don’t have enough space, or have to dance on carpet.

“So it’s a struggle right now.”

It’s not just the studio that’s struggling. Haley Catton said many dancers have come to appreciate the company, and the positive impact it has had on their lives.

“It has improved everything about my life,” said Catton.

Ammena Dance

She joined the studio about two years ago, and said dance has helped her recover from a serious brain injury.

“I was seeing a team of doctors and therapists and it was helping a bit, but it all started coming together when I started dancing.”

Catton said being with other people, being around lights and turning made a major difference in her recovery, and completely changed her life.

“It was such a big deal for me, and I’m willing to fight to keep it for other people who need it too,” said Catton.

“The love and welcoming I’ve seen and experienced is second to none, and that comes from Lise-Anne and her heart,” added Pickles.

“I wasn’t ready to let the studio go away. I’m not ready to leave my dance family, so I created the gofundme campaign just to help her out.”

The current lockdown is scheduled to go until at least November 28.

Talhami said the studio will be ready when they can again reopen to small groups. They’ve put tape on the floor to keep dancers apart and at a safe distance, and the studio is constantly being disinfected. 

The company is also considering strategies to increase business through virtual classes, and find other ways to make the studio sustainable going forward.

But Pickles said right now, their priority is survival. “This is a tough year, we’re just trying to get through this year.”