This is how Sky-Marie McDonald describes the state of her nonprofit youth dance program, the Wild Rivers Coast Foundation for Dance, after she received a 30-day lease termination notice by the owner of his studio last month.
“The studio is not behind on rent, we paid faithfully during the pandemic even when we had to close and couldn’t use the space,” McDonald said. “The property manager told me that the owner wanted more money and had other plans for the building.”
McDonald founded Wild Rivers Conservatory of Dance in 2015, after moving from Texas to Brookings. The following year, she created the nonprofit Wild Rivers Coast Foundation for Dance. The nonprofit organization was formed to help further promote awareness and education of dance along the southern Oregon coast.
McDonald’s has extensive professional experience and offers classes in a variety of disciplines, including ballet, modern, tap and other styles. She teaches toddlers through high school students and even adults. McDonald’s teaches year-round, puts on two big shows a year, and also brings in other visiting professional dancers and teachers on a seasonal basis.
“I had planned to bring in a dancer from the Rockettes this summer, and another from the New York City Ballet, to work with our local dancers. I’m not sure that’s happening now because I have to move the studio quickly, ”she said.
Korinne Luis has been dancing with McDonald’s since the age of 10. Now 16, Luis admired older dancers when she first started, but now she’s playing the big sister role in the studio.
“These guys are my family and this place is like my home,” Luis said. “I came here a year after moving here for the first time, and this was the place where I felt like I really had friends and belonged here.”
Sometimes Luis says she’s in the studio seven days a week. She said she couldn’t imagine not having a safe place to come and speak.
After the longtime McDonald’s owner passed away, the studio and other adjacent properties were put up for sale. She said the new owner had raised rents since they bought it last year, and then her month-to-month lease was terminated with just one month’s notice.
Now McDonald has said she is looking for a new space, but has yet to find anything affordable that also fits their needs as a studio. In their current space, they have a large dance hall and a room for the creation and storage of costumes and accessories. Not to mention that it is within walking distance of middle and high schools.
“The location was perfect for us. Lots of kids walk from school, and it’s kind of the neighborhood hangout, too, ”said McDonald. “It’s just kind of a safe, friendly, creative space … I get a random boy here and there who just walked in and wanted to join a class.”
McDonald said she never turned them down; boys are welcome too.
“I have about a dozen boys enrolled,” said McDonald, “which is great for a city like this.”
Dance moms Jessica Eichlin and Bonnie Ell are especially worried about losing the studio as there are few youth programs for the creative arts in this area.
Six years ago, Ell and her daughter Sarai discovered McDonald’s and Wild Rivers Dance during a “Parent and Tot” dance class. Sarai, now 8, has since returned.
“It certainly provides that kind of cultural diversity and opportunity for artistic expression that we just don’t have elsewhere, there isn’t another dance studio in all of Curry County, and certainly not one. which is led by a professional dancer, ”said Ell.
Eichlin and his daughter Brooke only moved to Brookings recently and discovered Wild Rivers Dance soon after.
“I have always been passionate about dance and theater. Kids need a creative outlet, and I was so glad it was here… and it’s the only place, ”Eichlin said.
Wild Rivers Dance presents a few major productions throughout the year, including an annual performance of “The Nutcracker,” which can draw close to 1,000 spectators. Due to the pandemic, they didn’t play “The Nutcracker” last year, but instead made a feature film. From the clips it looks like a professionally acted and produced movie, mostly directed by McDonald and his students. McDonald has said the film will be screened at Brookings soon. Their most recent show was in the spring, “The Celebration of Hope”. For this performance, McDonald said she had 76 dancers on stage.
McDonald said many dancers in his program took their dance education to the next level.
“It might be a small town, but my students fit in perfectly when they travel to dance in other intensive programs, like at Eugene Ballet and San Francisco Ballet, and my former students have been competitive enough to fit. throw in some really good college dances. programs. I am very proud of it, ”she said.
If Wild Rivers Dance goes away, Korinne, Sarai, Brooke, and many more dancers may not only lose a second home, but a rare opportunity in a small town to express themselves and pursue their dreams.