A former professional dancer who has overcome a lot of pain and loss in her life has found herself in Fernie teaching her craft – or rather, Fernie found her.
Melanie Jolicoeur, who teaches a variety of dance styles at The Castle studio, said she is happy she’s able to share her love of music and dance with the people of Fernie.
Having had a dance studio in Quebec for many years, teaching isn’t new to Jolicoeur, but one of the many styles she is teaching (which includes everything from hip hop to burlesque), is.
PranaDance – a combination of yoga and dance – is a style the former professional dancer developed.
“I invented a new way to do yoga. It’s postures of yoga you learn, maybe 15 postures, and you just redo those postures over and over and over and those postures would be your chorus and your verse together,” she said. “At the end of the class I put the song on that I choreographed those postures to, and then all the movements support the notes of the music.”
Jolicoeur has an energy and spirit that makes her easily likeable. Her positive outlook on life is inspiring, especially to hear about the pain and loss she experienced throughout her life.
When she was young, she lost her sister. Then her father died after a 10-year battle with Leukemia – a man who inspired her and introduced her to music in the first place.
Jolicouer said when her father was diagnosed, he began to do everything he could to help those around him. From joining causes to fundraising, he helped his community.
“The more he was sick, the more he got involved in projects,” she said.
Following that, her former dance partner and friend with whom she opened a dance studio back east had a baby with Jolicoeur’s brother.
Not long after that, her friend was diagnosed with cancer and passed away at the age of 32. Throughout the next two years, Jolicoeur also lost her grandmother, her stepmother and another friend.
While she was constantly helping those sick around her, and having the strength to be at palliative care facilities for a long time, Jolicoeur realized she’d been putting her own life on hold and knew she wanted more from life.
“I felt like I had to live.”
Over the next while, the dancer began a journey of personal growth and when she met her partner – who was also on his own journey of personal growth – she knew she found her soul mate.
“When we met, we were really at the same place. We wanted to evolve as human beings, we wanted to live and we wanted healthy lifestyles and all that. Right away we knew it.”
Three weeks after meeting him, the couple moved to Eastern Europe where he was playing professional hockey.
Coming from a place where she knew everyone and was very involved in her community, Jolicoeur found herself in a foreign country without a job and not knowing anyone.
“I was trying to save everybody for a while, and now I had to look at me and find out who I was and what I wanted and what I didn’t want,” she said. “I had this chance to really evolve as a human. I changed my life. I became a vegetarian. I became very spiritual. Yoga came into my life. It was a lot of personal growth. We were both in this vibe and we grew from there.”
After that experience, the couple moved back to Quebec, and her partner signed another hockey contract, this time in England. They went there but before long, her partner got injured, so the couple decided to move on and started applying to a variety of jobs all over the world.
“We agreed both to stop and so this is where it began,” she said. “We really wanted to stay open to where the world wanted us to be.”
As luck would have it, that place ended up being Fernie because of the way things sort of fell into place.
“I guess our intuition was, ‘Ok, Fernie is choosing us right now’. So everywhere in the world [we could have gone] and we ended up here.”
And so far, so good.
Jolicoeur is excited to share her love of dance with the community.
“What I want to get inside of people is to not always be perfect but to feel the music; to feel what they are saying with the movement,” she said. “I want to bring them to experience the expression of dance more than the dance itself. Let it go out. This is where the medicine of dance comes from; this is where you heal.”
Along with classes, Jolicoeur hopes to find a dedicated group of people and create a type of dance crew she had in Montreal.
“The Fernie Crew” would be a group of people who train each week and do things that include flash mobs and performing at all of the events around them. She said she would also like the crew to do dance-based cheerleading for the Ghostriders.
To find out more, visit Thecastleonfirst.com.