Courtenay dance studio upset about higher fees to rent theatre

A small change in status means a big change in costs for Gemini Dance Studios, as performance rental rates for the company's year-end recital at the Sid Williams Theatre could increase 125 per cent.

Owner Moira Newsom told the Record when she approached the theatre two weeks ago to find her contracts, she was told her studio will have to pay commercial business rates rather than community user rates, which she has been paying for the past 30 years.

Newsom said her Courtenay-based dance studio is a community business and the change in status will directly impact not only families, but her overall company.

"(The change) has increased our performance rental rates by 125 per cent, our rehearsal rates by 100 per cent, and our ticket printing costs by 100 per cent," she explained, and added families who come to the theatre to see the end-of-the-year recital could pay $45 a ticket, up from $20.

"The recital at the end, is truly the goal for all of the students," noted Newsom. "It's all about this."

She explained her studio uses the theatre not only for the performance, but rents the space for rehearsals, and added as the only proper theatre in the Comox Valley, the Sid provides a unique experience for her students.

"The students get a lot of preparations and education (from the theatre)," she noted.

In January, members of the Sid Williams Theatre Society approached Comox and Courtenay councils along with the Comox Valley Regional District to ask for an increase in funding as it struggles with an operational shortfall.

At the time, Deb Renz, general manager of the theatre said it could potentially post its first deficit in 20 years.

"We've had a very difficult couple of years," she said. "We've put together a new three year business plan for the theatre ... we're trying at this point not to scale back but save the things that are most important to the theatre."

Sid board member Tim Krutzmann told Comox council the society fundamentally believes the core principal of supporting local user groups is a key component of supporting the performing arts and cultural organizations within the community.

"We have revamped our operations and this has cost the society a measurable income in the short term, and what we as a society was not prepared to do was sacrifice the well-being of our staff and eventually the quality of our services to the community and user-groups to which we serve. Credit should be given to the society for its long-term vision instead of taking a short-term Band-Aid approach that was unconcerned for the big picture," he said.

Newsom said any potential increase will be on the backs of families within the community who have already chosen to afford fine arts education for their children. She said she already cut the amount of shows she produces at the theatre from six to four, and cut her rental weeks from two to one.

She explained she will wait until a council meeting in early March, and depending upon the outcome, may approach the theatre to seek sponsorship to change the studio's status from commercial to non-profit.

Calls to the theatre were not returned by Record deadline.

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