Members of Honeymoon Bay’s newest dance studio participated in their first-ever Cowichan Music Festival in late February and owner/instructor Abbey Helliwell couldn’t be more proud.
The 20 year old opened the studio in September 2022 and has been teaching young dancers ever since.
“I am so proud of all these dancers for working so hard, going up on that stage and giving it their all,” Helliwell said in a social media post. “Most of these dancers have just begun dancing this year and the amount of growth I’ve seen in the past five months has been incredible.”
Having run for 74 years, the Cowichan Music Festival is an annual showcase and competition, which this year featured 735 performances by 1,589 participants aged three to 80-plus. It’s an opportunity for students of all ages studying music and dance to perform for their friends and families and receive adjudication by a group of professionals, said festival organizers in a press release.
The Cowichan Music Festival wrapped up with galas on March 5 and March 6 but the future looks bright for Helliwell and her troupe.
“This truly was an amazing week of dance and I cannot wait to see what the future holds for our studio,” she said.
Growing up in Lake Cowichan, it was difficult for the young dancer having to commute to dance classes all the time. In fact, Helliwell attended Lake Cowichan School until Grade 10, when she switched to Cowichan Secondary in an attempt to reduce her dance commute.
“I’ve always had the dream to some day open my own studio,” Helliwell told the Gazette. “I was dancing five days a week in Ladysmith and Nanaimo. I wanted to be able to give the children of Lake Cowichan the same opportunity without the commute so I saw it as the perfect opportunity to open my own studio locally.”
And so she did. Now Helliwell teaches children ages three and up in jazz, ballet, hip hop and more — all without having to leave their own community.
It turns out, her services are in high demand. This year she boasts a class of 50 performers with approximately 20 more wait-listed for next year already.
“It has been amazing,” Helliwell said. “I’m so grateful to be able to provide this opportunity for all my students.”