Aislyn McCubbin (centre) performs in a year-end dance recital last month alongside Desiree Kennedy and Paige Chu.

Dancer focuses on the future

Hard work, long commutes don’t slow dancer Aislyn McCubbin

by Justine Powell, Special to Peace Arch News

A young dancer’s dedication to a teacher has led her and her mom to make daily commutes to South Surrey’s Essence of Dance from the Fraser Valley.

Aislyn McCubbin, a 15-year-old Abbotsford resident, makes the 45-minute journey twice a day six days a week, and dances an average of 33 hours weekly.

“I was following one of my favourite teachers here – she left the studio that I danced at,” McCubbin explained.

While that particular instructor has since left the local dance centre – moving beyond reasonable commuting distance to another province – McCubbin said she began to “really love the studio” during her time there and has continued to trek to the area.

She said she sees her teachers as the main motivators for her to continue dancing long hours, and pursuing her goal of becoming a member of a professional dance company after finishing her studies.

She learned from them that it’s not necessary to have an “amazing” natural ability to succeed in dance, she said.

“If you work hard, even at your local studio, you can still get places.”

Her dedication has not gone unnoticed by her instructors.

“She is one of the most hardworking and determined kids I know,” said teacher Julia Colton, who has worked closely with the dancer at Essence.

After McCubbin changed studios, her mother’s experience as a parent volunteer earned her a position as secretary at the South Surrey studio – although her duties reach beyond what her title implies.

Candy Mendyk now does everything from sewing costumes to organizing class registration – and McCubbin helps, too, handing out photos and picking up coffees for the staff.

Volunteering also includes assisting teachers with their classes. “That’s the part about it that I really enjoy,” she said.

After a professional career, she hopes to get some of her certifications for teaching and continue to keep dance in her life as an instructor.

With plenty of hours and a busy competition season, it would be difficult for McCubbin to enrol in typical secondary school education. That’s one of the reasons why she prefers traditional homeschooling, which allows her to work independently.

It’s a learning style that McCubbin is quite used to, as she has been doing a variety of distance education and traditional homeschooling since kindergarten.

Since she is at the studio nearly all day, her schoolwork is mostly done on weekends and during the summer.

Of course, McCubbin’s summer wouldn’t be complete without dance, which is why she will be attending a two-week intensive in Italy later this year.

The program focuses on the pointe and ballet styles that McCubbin hopes to pursue as a professional dancer.

The international location was not chosen simply for its sightseeing potential – McCubbin believes it will provide her with opportunities to work with new people and experience a different style of classes.

To prepare for a career in the ballet sphere, the young dancer takes part in the pre-professional half-day program at her studio.

Running three hours a day, four days a week, it begins with  “two hours of just classical ballet” while the last hour can be “contemporary movement, pointe or a variation”.

It doesn’t end there. After McCubbin finishes this program she goes on to more dance – usually competitive classes in styles such as jazz, musical theatre or lyrical, or classes geared towards one of the three dance examinations she is currently practicing for, or more technique instruction – until around 9:30 p.m.

Her lifestyle may be quite varied from that of a typical 15-year-old, but she noted that a strong sense of teamwork was instilled in her as a result of her dance-focused life.

“In a classroom setting your mark just affects you, not the entire class, whereas when you’re performing onstage you’re performing for everyone,” she said.

The atmosphere of a dance studio also helped her socially, she acknowledged.

McCubbin described herself as quite shy when she was growing up, and credited instructors and others in the dance community with helping her to become more self-assured.

“They helped me… especially with auditions – being able to present myself more confidently, with everyone’s support behind me.”

Writer Justine Powell is a student at Essence of Dance and a Grade 11 student at Earl Marriott Secondary on a work experience at Peace Arch News.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Vancouver Police were at a White Rock home Oct. 20 to conduct a search warrant. (Aaron Hinks photo)
ERT response to White Rock home connected to homicide: police

Search underway in the 15800-block of Prospect Crescent

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. (Graeme Roy/The Canadian Press)
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of Oct. 18

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

Ivan Scott. (Aaron Hinks photo)
Surrey mayor enters word war with speakers, councillor

McCallum calls brief recess after asking two speakers to leave chambers

Signs at a new COVID-19 testing and collection centre at 14577 66th Ave. in Surrey. It was relocated from an urgent primary care centre near Surrey Memorial Hospital. This new centre allows for up to 800 tests per day, which is 550 more than the previous centre, according to Fraser Health. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Surrey’s COVID-19 case count exceeds 1,800

About 800 new cases in September

Montreal-based writer Michael Foy grew up in the Newton area of Surrey. (submitted photo)
Surrey-raised writer Foy really loves to set his short stories in the city

His latest is published in ‘Canadian Shorts II’ collection

FILE – People wait in line at a COVID-19 testing facility in Burnaby, B.C., on Thursday, August 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
167 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death recorded as B.C. enters 2nd wave

Three new healthcare outbreaks also announced

Maple Meadows Station’s new Bike Parkade. TransLink photo
TransLink to remove abandoned or discarded bicycles from bike parkades

Rules at TransLink bike parkades ask customers to use facilities for single day use only

This 2020 electron microscope image made available by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases shows a Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 particle isolated from a patient, in a laboratory in Fort Detrick, Md. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-NIAID/NIH via AP
At least 49 cases of COVID-19 linked to wedding in Calgary: Alberta Health

McMillan says the city of Calgary has recently seen several outbreaks linked to social gatherings

UBC geoscientists discovered the wreckage of a decades-old crash during an expedition on a mountain near Harrison Lake. (Submitted photo)
Wreckage of decades-old plane crash discovered on mountain near Harrison Lake

A team of Sts’ailes Community School students helped discover the twisted metal embedded in a glacier

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

The official search to locate Jordan Naterer was suspended Saturday Oct. 17. Photo courtesy of VPD.
‘I am not leaving without my son,’ says mother of missing Manning Park hiker

Family and friends continue to search for Jordan Naterer, after official efforts suspended

A bear similar to this black bear is believed responsible for killing a llama in Saanich on Oct. 19. (Black Press Media file photo)
Bear kills llama on Vancouver Island, prompting concerns over livestock

Officers could not track the bear they feel may not fear humans

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
RCMP cleared in fatal shooting of armed Lytton man in distress, police watchdog finds

IIO spoke to seven civillian witnesses and 11 police officers in coming to its decision

Most Read