Giving thanks as dance dream lasts 20 years
Twenty years ago Lizz Pimentel had a dream, and ran with it.
Dancers across Bermuda thank her for it every day.
“When I say it feels like yesterday was day one of my In Motion journey, it honestly does,” she said. “It’s as much fun as it was 20 years ago. My willingness to push dancers and choreographers is still just as much there today as it was 20 years ago.”
The journey almost didn’t happen. Ms Pimentel, who has a degree in dance and business management, joined the corporate world after university.
“Twenty years ago everybody became an accountant or a lawyer,” she laughed. “I was working at Ernst & Young as a junior accountant and teaching a couple of classes at Jackson’s [School of Dance] but I just didn’t feel fulfilled. I’d come back with grand ideas about what to do in dance, but felt limited.
“I was riding into work one day and came to the realisation that this is not the best representation of me for life. I opened the newspaper and saw an ad for a space for rent.”
She immediately dialled the number listed and made an appointment to view in her lunch hour.
“As small as it was, in my big imagination I saw a studio with changing rooms, a store, an office and a bathroom — it was perfect.”
The man renting the property couldn’t believe it when she told him what she wanted the space for.
“He looked at me and said it was never going to work, that he was not going to get me to sign a lease and I could pay him month to month. It was the catalyst for me to want to succeed.”
All that was left was for her to go home and tell her parents of her plan to quit her “stable” job and open a dance school.
It made it easier for her that they were understanding.
“I have to be really thankful that from day one they’ve been fully supportive,” she said. “There was a pause, but they know I’m very determined. My father, who was an entrepreneur himself, said, ‘Ok, try it. The worst that can happen is that it doesn’t work and you try something else’.”
She put an ad in the paper and, as she tells it, “the rest is history”.
In Motion opened on Chancery Lane in a spot that had been used for retail. The days were long ones for Ms Pimentel.
“I would have classes with one student or two students and from there it started to build over the years. I did the teaching, the choreography, cleaned the bathroom and organised everything. Still I have very long days but when it’s something you believe in, you’re committed to and you enjoy, you still have the energy to get up in the morning and do it again.”
Especially in the early days, it helped that she had Jennifer Soares on her side.
“Once I knew she was opening a dance school I wanted to jump on board,” said Ms Soares, who studied with Ms Pimentel at Jackson’s and Warwick Academy. “I took advanced lessons and I may have even choreographed a piece or two in the first recital.”
Staff were hired as the school grew. Ms Soares helped, initially as a substitute; she now teaches nine classes a week.
“I think I always thought In Motion would be a success,” she said. “Lizz has a real passion for dance and she’s always made sure she’s got teachers who were just as passionate about the art.”
The dance instructor said she loves the “hustle and bustle” at In Motion on any given weekday around 3.30pm.
“We have homework groups going on, the dancers are talking, there’s lots of excitement. One thing I love is that a lot of our students go to different schools and come from different parts of the island, but they come together here. They get in and immediately have to catch up; it’s really nice to see. They know each other’s schedules, what’s going on with the others. It’s wonderful and very family friendly.”
The school moved to its current location on Reid Street in 2000. Approximately 1,000 dancers are on the roster today, Ms Pimental is thrilled that so many former students have pursued careers related to the arts.
“Twenty years ago there wasn’t the support in Bermuda that there is now,” Ms Pimentel said. “When I look at all these students, even the ones who didn’t pursue artistic careers, it makes me so proud. There are so many skills you learn in dance, it’s not just about dance steps. You also learn social skills, time management, how to work as a team member and so on.
“People don’t realise, unless they’re involved, that In Motion is a school of dance first and foremost, but it’s also a haven for a lot of kids who perhaps don’t fit in elsewhere. Nobody’s judged. We will support them if they need to talk, if they have issues at school or home, and we work closely with schools to make sure they’re maintaining their academics.
“All our students know that and I’m so grateful for my family, my husband, our technical crew, volunteer moms and anybody who has had any sort of involvement. So many people have come through these doors and I’d like to say a big thank you to all of them.”
In Motion School of Dance is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a grand show that opened last night.
20 Years of Dance runs until June 10 in the Earl Cameron Theatre.
One of the show’s highlights is set to be a performance by alumni of the Reid Street school, choreographed by Jennifer Soares and Candice Culmor Smith.
“We were both thinking it’d be cool to do and so we put a Facebook burst out there and we were astounded by the response, about 45 people said yes,” Ms Soares said. “
“We’ve asked them to come along to as many of the performances as they can. We’ve split it into different generations. It’s been so fun to get together and reminisce.
“There are people who haven’t been in a dance studio for ten or 15 years but something about dance training doesn’t leave you. We have women who have had kids and women who claim they’re out of shape, but the grace and polish is still there. It’s been so much fun.”
To purchase tickets visit www.inmotionbda.com