Polina Salabay, a lifelong dancer from Ukraine who recently immigrated to Canada, is expanding opportunities for children in Charlottetown by offering lessons in hip-hop, jazz-funk, Zumba and more.
#ImmigrationMatters in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island - Breathing new life into Charlottetown’s dance scene
Breathing new life into Charlottetown’s dance scene
January 17, 2023
Polina Salabay’s zest for movement is shaking up the dance scene in Charlottetown.
Polina and her mother arrived in Canada in the spring of 2022. They were escaping the war in Ukraine and joined Polina’s sister, who had moved to Charlottetown a few years before. But soon after settling in, Polina began to feel a familiar restless energy.
Despite her full-time job as a recruiter for an architectural company, she was missing the busy schedule she had juggled in Ukraine. Polina had spent most of her life there dancing, first as a student and then as a choreographer and instructor.
“I find my life too quiet when I have only one job,” she says, “and dancing is very different from my day job. There is an energy exchange that just makes me feel alive.”
“I’ve never met anybody quite like Polina, who just says ‘I have an idea,’ and then the next day it’s accomplished. She is incredibly resilient and inspiring—an excellent role model for the community.”
Laura Weatherbie, board chair, Two Right Feet Dance Inc.
Polina looked for volunteer opportunities at dance studios in Charlottetown. When she came across DownStreet Dance, she felt an instant connection with the studio’s owners. They didn’t have classes for children, so it was the perfect fit.
Starting out as a volunteer teacher, she quickly built a small following, and with some help from DownStreet, she set up her own dance company. She named it Polli’s Dance, combining her own name, in a format that Canadian children can pronounce easily, with “polis” (the end of the word “metropolis”) to hint at big-city excitement.
Laura Weatherbie is the board chair of Two Right Feet Dance Inc., the non-profit organization that operates DownStreet Dance. She says that enthusiasm and warmth are Polina’s calling cards, and children “just take to her.” Polina also brought new dance options to Charlottetown with her hip-hop style. But what most impresses Laura is Polina’s drive and determination.
“She’s really proactive and energetic,” says Laura. “I admire her entrepreneurial spirit and resolve, especially considering all she’s been through. She hardly needed our support! It was like we were just following behind her.”
Nicole Dunphy, a childcare provider in Charlottetown, has two daughters who recently began taking hip-hop lessons from Polina. They were competitive cheerleaders before COVID-19, and Nicole was looking for something new they could try.
“The girls instantly fell in love with hip-hop,” says Nicole. “They like Polina because she’s fun and easy to talk to, and she keeps them energized. But I think they also appreciate her expertise. She brings some structure to the lessons, and I appreciate the great example she’s setting. Polina has enriched my kids’ lives and is definitely adding to the dance community here.”
Now that her personal life is busy enough, Polina appreciates that Charlottetown is close to so much nature and beauty. “When you live here, you don’t even need to take a vacation to see the ocean,” she laughs.
As for future plans, she dreams of growing her dance business—and it won’t take her long, based on the high-energy way she blazed into Charlottetown.
“Every season, more people will see the results of my work, and it will grow and grow,” she says confidently.
Immigration profile: Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
- The immigration rate in the Charlottetown region has been among the highest in Canada for the past decade. Immigrants in Charlottetown make up nearly 10% of the population.
- There are more than 80,000 immigrants working in professional and technical occupations in the arts and culture sector across the country.
- Between 1980 and 2016, over ¾ of immigrants who came to Charlottetown were economic immigrants, while 12% were sponsored by family and 12% were refugees.
Did you know?
- Since January 1, 2022, Canada has welcomed over 100,000 Ukrainian citizens and returning permanent residents of Canada who are of Ukrainian origin.
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