A quick glance at Vashti Fairbairn’s resume is telling. At local theatre company Fighting Chance Productions, she has directed the critically lauded Little Shop of Horrors and The Mystery of Edwin Drood, both of which magically combine music with dramatic arts. At her own Music Box Music and Theatre Academy, Fairbairn, along with a team of dedicated teachers, does the exact same thing on a daily basis. Children’s group classes give little ones as young as 6 months old a chance to strut their stuff on the dance floor, belt out their favourite show tunes, and learn to tickle the ivories like a seasoned elephant sitter. Private lessons are open to adults as well, and expand the instrumental scope to include strings, music theory, and the speaking arts. The latter comes in handy during the school’s drama clubs, which teach kids 3 years and older how to use their imaginations to create real-life and fantasy scenarios. Outside of their educational programs, the facility entertains visitors to the River Market with free music and theatre performances in the Music Box Presents series.
King George Aviation Flight School's squadron of instructors use their decades of combined experience to introduce novice pilots to the skies. Official licensing courses range from navigation and mountain flying to radio procedures or instructor ratings, and their Discovery flights give beginners a taste of the skies while proving to nonbelievers that clouds are, in fact, made of marshmallow. The school also rents its planes to pilots for day trips and sells certain models.
Express Computers began in the traditional way for tech companies, in the basement of owner Darren Layton's home. In the two decades since, the computing collective has expanded to five above-ground locations, solving IT crises for personal users and business clients. Technicians perform regular maintenance services to keep systems free of viruses and other maladies, and can be called upon to help set up such social programs as Skype, Facebook, and sets of USB-linked tin cans. Express Computers also maintains a comprehensive selection of hardware and software, including refurbished units and demo equipment.
World Dance Co.'s team of instructors, which includes three-time World Cuban Salsa champion Diego Sanchez, teaches duos how to move during dance classes and dance-inspired fitness routines. The class lineup teems with ballroom boogies such as the argentine tango and folkloric dances from the Caribbean, and South America. Students can choose from classes ranging from salsa, bachata, tango, zouk, cumbia, swing, cha-cha, Afro-Cuban, Zumba, yoga, ballet, jazz, hip hop, and tap.
Adult students can master four different styles of salsa that may combine Cuban, Colombian, and American influences. Children's classes explore classical traditions such as ballet and modern innovations such as street-inspired jazz dancing. World Dance Co. also serves as the residence of the Grupo America Latin-dance team, whose professional dancers combine energetic routines with eye-catching costumes.
Nadia and Masha know art. Nadia spent years designing and making props for the stage before adding degrees in teaching and child psychology to her art diploma and focusing on art education full-time. Masha, who recently pitched her art skills on CBC's Dragons' Den, specializes in design, painting, and drawing. The two combine their forces at Pinocchio Arts & Craft to teach burgeoning Van Goghs aged 5 and older how to find their inner creativity.
Yet the instructors' focus is not on skills alone. Their curriculum is broad enough to build well-rounded creators who understand the different cultural influences of art and its many movements. This is true in their classes and even in their birthday parties, which focus on portrait painting, re-creating famous masterpieces, or working in the style of Picasso, Matisse, or Emily Carr. Children's sessions are divided by age, not medium, and focus on international cultures. In past classes, for example, kids have painted the Taj Mahal, built a Chinese-style dragon, and learned what part of the world has deserts hot enough to melt clocks. Adult classes, on the other hand, explore more advanced media and concepts, such as the laws of abstraction and cubism.
More like a mobile photo studio, Pabs Photomagic's photo booths come replete with a pro photographer, high-end lighting, and muslin backdrop. But like a photo booth, guests get to pile in front of the camera to make funny faces and don goofy props such as crowns and jumbo sunglasses. Photo strips of those priceless moments are printed in a matter of seconds with customized layouts. To further enhance events, party-goers can add extras such as bubble machines and custom-made backdrops.