A dancer from Los Angeles is giving back to her Simcoe County origins with a nonprofit aimed at young dancers.
Allie Laliberte is the founder and CEO of Brass Ring Dance, an initiative that helps dancers in small towns of Ontario, currently tackling the Midland area, that offers a range of supports.
They include financial assistance for dance fees (dance tuition, competition fees, costumes, dance attire, shoes), hosting dance workshops and seminars, and lifestyle seminars that discuss issues like eating disorders.
“We want to create safe dance spaces for young dancers, but we also want to tackle some of the bigger issues within dance,” Laliberte told Barrie 360. “We work alongside studios and the community for cultural, structural change.”
Laliberte is from Lafontaine in Simcoe County and spent much of her younger dancing years at academies in Midland – and says she understands the issues dancers from rural areas face.
“Dance is extremely expensive,” said Laliberte. “That’s a very big challenge, dance can be anywhere from $300 to $5,000 a year just for one dancer. Another thing would be the quality of training. People closer to cities have access to different teachers and different styles – that’s one thing that we hope to bring.”
She noted her own personal experience with this as a youth.
“We struggled financially a little bit, and dance was a huge financial commitment,” said Laliberte. “I had to work and pay for any little extra costumes that I wanted … it was a really big commitment for us. As soon as I was able to drive, I started going to different teachers, just to extend my knowledge a little bit more and see what else is out there.”
The idea for Brass Ring Dance came about in April of this year, and launched a few months later in July.
The name, “Brass Ring,” has significance to Laliberte, who says it’s in honour of her father who died when she was 17.
PODCAST: Allie Laliberte talks about her new charity to make dance more accessible (and more local news)
“He was always my inspiration, and my biggest supporter in dance,” said Laliberte. “When I started this nonprofit, I wanted to name it after him. The biggest love of his life was probably his boat – he loved his boat so much – [it] was called The Brass Ring. So, that’s why we call ourselves Brass Ring Dance, in his honour.”
When asked why she feels such a strong passion to give back and invest in youth, she said it’s because she sees herself in young dancers.
“I know how much I loved dancing, and how much it meant to me,” said Laliberte. “If I can help someone stay in this industry, or stay in this activity, a little bit longer and give them that love for it, or allow them to explore it a little bit more – why not – it feels really aligned with who I am.
Brass Ring Dance has a board of three directors, all of which grew up and danced in the Midland area.
Laliberte says they all have the same goal of someday expanding the nonprofit to cover all small towns in Ontario, and maybe all of Canada one day.
“We think there’s a need for our services everywhere, but definitely wanted to start in Midland,” said Laliberte. “Not only just because we have connections, but that’s the town that started it all for us. I don’t think I would have the same career, the same life, that I would have if I didn’t train and live in that city for a really huge part of my life.”
Laliberte says all funds used by Brass Ring Dance are collected through donations.
She says in September alone, they were able to provide over $1,000 to different families, and helped close to ten kids with dance fees.
Images via Allie Laliberte