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Developing dance in Whistler, and Detroit

Soul Funktion students train with top companies, regroup for new season

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While fall is typically the season that kids grudgingly don their backpacks and head back to school, September also marks the month that Soul Funktion Studio reopens its doors to hordes of enthusiastic young dancers.

Codi Dalen is the director of Soul Funktion, which opened for business in Function Junction just over five years ago. She explained that this season, the studio will be introducing set repertoires for the troupe to perform in the fall/winter and spring seasons, rather than simply holding their big year-end show for the community, as they've done in previous years.

"When you have a community performance, there's no budget to commission work," Dalen explained. "So the bottom line is, how can we afford to commission the work so that it's then prepared so that we can participate in the community?"

With a set repertoire under their belts, Dalen hopes the troupe will be able to step up and participate in an assortment of arts events around the community this year, in addition to their usual springtime year-end show. They also plan on encouraging students to participate in showcases and competitions outside of Whistler for creative inspiration.

"They love to travel, they love to go and share with other schools what they're doing - this is the environment to do it in," Dalen said.

Not all dancers have been idle during the summer months.

Shay Saver is part of Soul Funktion's performance troupe, which features over 30 dancers ranging in age from nine to 17, performing multiple dance styles, including ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical jazz, hip hop and afro. These young aspiring dancers are enrolled in at least three classes per week, with some participating in up to 10 classes per week.

While the performance troupe took a break for the summer, a few of the dancers who are particularly passionate and eager to learn kept busy. Saver landed a spot with the American Ballet Theatre's summer program, while two other dancers took part in an intensive summer program with professional teachers at the Harbour Dance Centre in Vancouver.

Last Friday, Saver was enjoying one of the last few lazy days of summer before getting back to her at-home school studies and getting back to work with Soul Funktion.

The 13 year old is relatively new to the world of dance. She began taking lessons just five years ago who she first moved to Whistler with her family from Los Angeles.

"I danced for about two years, and then I went to the troupe," Saver said.

Dalen immediately recognized a natural talent in young Saver.

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