Dance studio feels pinch of frozen training fund

When Music Yukon sparked an audit of the Cultural Industry Training Fund last fall, it left Leaping Feats Dance Studio scrambling for money.

When Music Yukon sparked an audit of the Cultural Industry Training Fund last fall, it left Leaping Feats Dance Studio scrambling for money.

The dance studio relies on up to $10,000 from the Education Department to train its staff and students each year.

In May, the studio was told it shouldn’t bother applying for the fund, said director Andrea Simpson-Fowler.

The fund had been frozen after it was discovered Music Yukon, which was administering the program, was mismanaging the funds.

“All students and staff are trained using that fund,” said Simpson-Fowler.

“Having well-trained staff is super important.”

Leaping Feats couldn’t train teachers or offer specialty camps to their students this summer.

The company wanted to hold an eight-week film-training project with eight dancers from the Breakdancing Yukon Society.

It contracted a Toronto film director to help students make video portfolios. But it only had money for four youth to take four days of training.

And only one student was able to complete their video portfolio.

The studio also couldn’t pay its students to train, said Simpson-Fowler.

The company pays an honoraria to advanced dancers to entice them to train.

“This year we weren’t able to pay people what they deserve.”

Despite a need for belt-tightening, Simpson-Fowler is hesitant to point fingers.

“I don’t know if there’s a place to lay blame,” she said.

However, government funding should be treated with respect.

“I believe arts funding is a gift,” she said.

“I don’t want to see it lost because people aren’t taking their jobs in non-profit societies seriously or not paying close attention to their finances.”

Music Yukon took control of the Cultural Industry Training Fund in 2004.

The group received 15 per cent of the funds to administer them.

But in 2009, newly hired executive director Steve Gedrose alerted the government to the fact there wasn’t enough money left in the account to pay artists.

Under the previous director, slightly more than $56,000 of the training fund had been siphoned away for other Music Yukon projects.

Education stepped in to pay out the intake of artists last fall. Then it promptly called for a five-year review of the organization.

After that, the training fund was frozen.

“When the funding went missing, we suspended all operations of the fund until we had discovered what happened to the $56,000,” said assistant deputy minister of advanced education Brent Slobodin.

There’s no word on how many organizations were affected by the freeze.

“The number of organizations would be up to Music Yukon,” he said. “They were the ones who decided (who got funding.) It could be three one year and 10 the next.”

After bailing out Music Yukon and paying for a bookkeeper, there were limited funds to do a spring intake, said Slobodin.

However, the government is working to fund more applicants in the next couple of weeks, he said.

In the meantime, non-profits like Leaping Feats will find funding tight.

Contact Vivian Belik at vivianb@yukon-news.com