As downtown businesses continue to struggle to stay afloat amid the ongoing construction throughout the core of Halifax, a local dance organization is hoping to bring people out to dance and support the local merchants.
Halifax Dance, in collaboration with Click Productions and the Downtown Halifax Business Commission (DHBC), is holding a free, public ballet barre class called “Dance for Downtown” on Argyle Street on Thursday at 12 p.m.
The class is being taught by Mary Lou Martin and will give people a chance to learn the fundamentals of ballet, also known as bar work, the organization says.
Halifax Dance executive director Jolene Reid said the idea was a mix of achieving their mandate to bring dance to the public while also bringing attention to the businesses downtown.
As a downtown business themselves, Reid said they understand what people are going through.
“We hear every day what’s happening and how people are being affected and we just sort of all want to be in this together and regardless of the construction or the delays or the impacts are, we just want to be supportive of one another and play a role in that community anyway,” she said.
Setting up the event was done with approval from the municipality, with the DHBC working as a facilitator.
Argyle Street was chosen, Reid said, as a way to relaunch the renovated street which has been undergoing construction for its shared streetscape project with Grafton Street which began in June. The targeted completion date is late October, early November.
Click Productions partner and owner of Aperture Studios, Brian Larter, said doing this pop-up dance studio is just one thing they can do to contribute to keeping downtown alive.
In addition to the dance class, the organizations also worked with various businesses to create marketing materials, putting dancers inside various locations that promoted the business in a unique way to be used at a later time to promote the downtown area.
The result saw dancers serving drinks at Durty Nelly’s Irish Pub, dancing outside The Carleton, pouring espresso at Weird Harbour, grabbing a tea at World Tea House or doing the splits while having a pint on the bar at Stillwell Bar.
“As a small business owner in the downtown core myself, I can tell you that we’ve been drastically suffering,” Larter said. “Nobody in their right mind wants to go downtown, and a lot of downtown businesses are very exclusive to downtown.
“I think the consensus between myself, the photographer involved and Halifax Dance was we wanted to … show off businesses in the downtown area with a bit of a whimsical feel to it … It’s to show that downtown’s still alive even though everyone may think it’s just straight up dead.”
DHBC director of communications Ivy Ho told Global News they thought the idea of the dance class was an event that contributed to the purpose of the streetscape.
“That’s what the street is going to be all about when it’s done,” she said. “It’s going to be easier for events to happen on the street for the community to use it. It’s going to be a shared street not just for cars but for people as well … and so we love this idea of a pop-up ballet class in the middle of the street.”
She said she’s hopeful events like this will allow more attention to be paid to downtown businesses.
Reid said she feels such events as this ballet class are part of their duty to draw attention to businesses in the community.
“Let’s make downtown more accessible and let’s make dance more accessible.”