Rising Up Strong with Miss Kendra and Miss Sam

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Miss Kendra and Miss Sam, two extraordinary women of Grimsby, are teaching their students how to “rise up” in confidence, self-esteem, and dance technique – a relevé of all kinds. They are providing this for students in Grimsby and surrounding areas at their dance studio, Smithville Dance Academy, which opened in June of 2018.

On Saturday, August 18, you can join them at their grand opening celebration, located at their studio on 237 St. Catharines St., Smithville. There will be free dance classes, a barbeque, prizes and lots of fun opportunities! (Trust me, you have to check out their studio – it’s absolutely stunning!) 

Miss Kendra says this of her passion for dance:

 “I love sharing my passion for dance with others. I’ve seen what it’s done for me in my own life – I’ve turned to dance during sad times and loss, and the art and my dance family has always been there for me.”

. . . . . .

It occurred to me while writing this article that we probably all have different images in our minds when we think of dancing:

For some of us it’s full of confidence and grace, and for others, it’s awkwardness and maybe even fear. For me, it’s a complicated mixture of them all. However, after my time with Miss Kendra, Miss Sam and their students at Smithville Dance Academy, I felt something heal in me, because of the heartfelt mission these two women are on to help their students find freedom through dance.

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Meet Kendra (right) and Sam (left). Owners and teachers of Smithville Dance Academy.

Visiting the Studio:

When I arrived, two of their trusty assistants, Charli and Sarina, greeted me at the door and led me into the most beautifully decorated waiting area; I later discovered this was a DIY project done by Miss Sam, who had gotten most of the furniture from the Grimsby Benevolent Fund. I could hear the excitement brewing in one of the studio rooms –a flurry of little dancers was getting ready to showcase some of the routines they had been working on at dance camp that week. As I was offered a seat, I settled in for an afternoon of cuteness-overload.

There were ribbons swirling and skirts twirling.

There were splits, and hip-hop moves, plié’s and jazz hands. Most of all, these little ones were having loads of fun as they pranced on their tip-toes across the floor, and waited eagerly to have their turn dancing with their adored teaching assistants. They kept running into the centre of the room to show me their routines to “A Spoonful of Sugar”, “Skyscraper”, “Despacito” and so many more. There was true joy in every move.

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How cute are they!

I remembered feeling that way, dancing as a child in lessons, or even just twirling around in circles in my parents’ living room. It was bliss. However, something in my mind shifted around age 12, from the joy of what my body could do to a complete obsession, like so many, with what my body looked like. The timeline of my story aligns quite accurately with research; an advocate for women in leadership, Ellen Duffield, shares a study from clinical psychologist and art therapist Robin Goodman, who found that “a woman’s self-confidence peaks around age nine.” Not surprising when you think of the messages being sent to girls and women about our bodies in our culture today.

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Kendra and Sam know the realities of body image and self-esteem. They are actively working to strengthen their students against these kinds of pressures. Smithville Dance Academy ran a summer camp for girls this year, which focused on building self-confidence and resilience in a group of 10 girls, ages 9-13. This is where Kendra’s unique background as a dancer and as a trained social worker come together. In these classes, Sam and Kendra wanted to equip girls with the skills to be critical of media representations of women, to encourage body positivity in their self-talk and to develop healthy coping strategies during stressful times. When I first entered the studio on Friday afternoon, the children were just finishing a little self-love exercise, by drawing each other’s silhouettes on full-sized pieces of paper and having fun colouring them in.

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These are examples of some of the activities done by students during the self-esteem camp.

Through some of my own reading lately,  the best way I can describe what Kendra and Sam are doing at their studio is this: embodiment. Hillary McBride describes embodiment as:

“The word we give to the felt sense of being in our bodies, not just evaluating them from the outside.” – Hillary McBride in Yellow Co.

These women are giving students the gift of movement, and a recognition of how to feel strong, powerful and resilient.

More about Miss Kendra and Miss Sam:

Miss Kendra and Miss Sam are two highly trained and experienced dance teachers, devoted and passionate about providing their students with encouraging, skill-based coaching. Their studio is committed to creating an inclusive, respectful environment where children bow to each other and their teacher at the end of every class. They also incorporate music, costumes, and choreography that are age-appropriate. As Miss Kendra told me, she takes the responsibility of her job very seriously, to teach and mentor other people’s children.  She wants to use her years of training to help students build confidence, discover their abilities and develop healthy ways to express themselves.

I had met with Kendra earlier that week to learn more about the studio:

  • They offer a variety of classes for specific age groups, including Acro, Ballet, Jazz, Tap, Hip-hop, Jazz, Lyrical and Contemporary, Modern, Musical Theatre and so many others
  • Summer camps which were running this summer
  • A competitive program

It’s a wide variety of services that operate under the same belief:

“Art can help kids develop in positive ways.” – Miss Kendra

The way Kendra and Sam bring their kind, smiling personalities to build-up the children who pass through their studio is equipping children all over this community with a creative outlet for self-expression. Fall classes begin on September 10 – sign your children up today for a year of inspiring dance classes.


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