One Small Charity is Making Big Dreams Come True
Story and photos by Lindsay Ruck
Since putting on her first pair of ballet shoes at three years old, Janice Crowe found a lasting relationship with dance that spans six decades. Born and raised in Ottawa, Janice started teaching dance when she was 16 years old in the basement of her mother’s home on Saturday afternoons. Taking classes with the national ballet, performing on national television, and opening a dance studio in 1968, Janice eventually took some time off to start a family.
“I did some training after the kids were born and found myself, now twenty years ago, re-opening another studio. Once you’re a dancer, it never goes away. No matter where you go, what you do, it’s always with you.”
The Studio School of Dance, which Janice co-directs with her daughter, enrolls about 700 kids. Wanting every child to experience the joys of dance, Janice was inspired by a random act of kindness three years ago and that was the catalyst for The Chance 2 Dance Foundation.
“As a studio director, we get phone calls every year from people who don’t have the financial resources to take dance classes. One day this man walked into my office and put $500 on my desk. I said thank-you, but who are you? He said that he had met this woman whose daughter had been dancing and she was having some financial difficulties. He decided to come in and help out. He asked for nothing in return and left. I thought wow, this is amazing. People out there really do want to help with no ulterior motives whatsoever.”
Janice enrolled the help of season two winner of So You Think You Can Dance Canada, Tara-Jean Popowich, who didn’t hesitate to be a part of a cause that was close to her heart.
“Janice contacted me and told me a little bit of the story and right away I was intrigued and I knew I wanted to be involved.”
Now at 23 years old and travelling all over the world, Tara-Jean’s story began much like many recipients of The Chance 2 Dance scholarship program.
”My mom was a single mom and we struggled. She was the secretary at my dance studio to pay for my classes and sometimes we’d be way behind with bills, but I still danced and I made a career out of it.”
Acting as the foundation’s spokesperson, Tara-Jean volunteers her time whenever she can and says it’s people like Janice that keep her coming back.
“She has such a good soul and you want to be around her,” she says. “Out of the kindness of her heart she wants to do things for other people, so why wouldn’t you want to be a part of that?”
Since the foundation’s inception, Janice says the need has grown.
“We’ve had more applications than we could help this year because the word has spread very quickly.” Two students that have benefitted from the scholarship program are Emma and Jessica.
A year after attending the annual Chance 2 Dance gala, the main fundraising event for the foundation, 16 year old Emma moved out of her home and wasn’t able to support her dance fees on her own. Her dance instructor reminded her of the foundation. Without dance, Emma says she’s not sure where she would be. “It’s gotten me through so many hard times, like stress with school, stress with family and supporting myself on my own. With dance, you don’t have to think about anything. All your feelings are put into it. It just means everything to me.”
Jessica’s story begins with a free hip-hop class put on by The Chance 2 Dance Foundation. Since then, she’s been accepted into Canterbury High School, a school for the arts, and dances on the Studio’s competitive hip-hop team on a scholarship from the foundation.
One of the hip-hop instructors at the Studio is Jill Pelletier, who is also using her talent for the foundation. Jill teaches dance at after-school programs in conjunction with Christie Lake Kids, a charity for underprivileged children and youth in Ottawa, and says the program has had a positive impact.
“The kids have developed a real respect for the program,” says Jill. “It’s such a great opportunity for these kids because they really would not have this opportunity
to go and dance, so for them it’s free and it’s a safe place to be.”
With a goal of raising $100,000 next year, Janice says she has high hopes for the future.
“The goal is to be able to help every child that makes an application. The fact that we had to turn kids down this year was awful and I think as a dance community,
we can make it happen together.”
“If I was told I couldn’t dance because of finances, I would have been crushed,” adds Tara-Jean. “I don’t want anyone to go through that. Dance is something that, no matter what, even if you have $2 in your bank account, you should be allowed to dance.”
To learn more about The Chance 2 Dance Foundation or to donate, visit www.thechance2dance.com.