Irish dance club has no place to go

Maple Ridge branch of school soon to close because it can't find a place to practise

For years, the shoes tapped out the infectious Celtic rhythms on the comfortable wood floors of old Albion Hall.

Those days all came to an end, however, last year when the District of Maple Ridge demolished Albion Hall and put the Stewart School of Irish Dance into the category of no fixed address.

Since the demolition, the school has been in four locations, each time being kicked out.

Now the school has run out of options.

Thursday was the dancers final night at their latest stop, St. Andrew’s Heritage Church Hall.

“The 29th [of November] will be the last day in Maple Ridge and most of them will drop out of it,” said Elizabeth Taylor, whose 10-year-old daughter is one among those with nowhere to dance.

The school offers lessons elsewhere in the Lower Mainland, but that means driving to either Richmond or Vancouver, something parents are reluctant to do.

After Albion Hall was torn down in spring 2011, the dance club moved to the multi-purpose room at Laity View elementary.

But the club requested a bigger room and moved to Golden Ears elementary.

The dancers then moved to Alouette elementary, from which they were evicted in October, over concerns of damage to flooring.

The final stop was St. Andrew’s Heritage Church Hall, but they’ve been told recently they no longer can use that building, either.

“We do have one place [Colleen Findlay Place] that would love to have us, but they have a carpeted floor, which isn’t going to work.”

The alternative is pay $4,000 for a portable floor that’s picked up and put down for every practice.

The main concern about Irish dancing is damage caused by the dancing shoes. But Taylor says the shoes don’t damage floors.

“I think what happens when people hear the shoes hitting the floor they automatically think they’re tap shoes. But they’re not.”

What’s odd is that the group is always asked to appear at cultural events, but no one wants to provide a place to practise.

“When we’ve got kids who live in Maple Ridge who’ve gone to the world championships … yet we don’t let them dance.”

Taylor said she’s talked to the school board, but was told that it’s up to each maintenance supervisor in each school to decide what activities will take place.

At Alouette elementary, dancers wore soft shoes, while at Laity View elementary they wore their hard shoes, “but there were no complaints.”

At Golden Ears, the club only used soft shoes. Taylor says the floor was already damaged before the dance school used it.

“And they’re saying, ‘no, you wrecked it.’”

But Taylor took photos of the floor before they used it, she pointed out.

“I think it’s really sad that will be gone from Maple Ridge for good.”