Raino sells her studio

Flamenco teacher Monique Salez takes over with ideas for new programs

Nearly 30 years after she opened her own dance school, Lynda Raino is passing the keys to a protégé.

The local dance matriarch has sold Lynda Raino Dance to Monique Salez, who has taught flamenco at the adult-only dance studio since 2004, in a sale that took effect Sept. 1.

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"It's been brewing for the last five years," Raino said. "Because when I stopped teaching, I was then just doing administration. And that's not my joy."

Though Raino announced her retirement from dance in 2004, the decision never stuck. It was a dancerelated accident in 2010 that put her behind the desk most recently - she broke a knee and an ankle when she fell while lifting another dancer. And while she's finally prepared to dance again, she's also prepared to focus on her own creative projects and pass her business on to the next generation.

"I feel like I've been so lucky, because I've done what I've wanted to do for my job," Raino said.

Raino moved to Victoria in 1978 and taught alongside Constantine Darling at Spectrum Dance Circus through 1981. When she opened Lynda Raino Dance, it was a modern-only school for adults. But over the years, through a mix of student demand and teacher initiative, the school has grown to 10 teachers who lead at least six forms of dance at various levels.

Though she began teaching the way many dancers do - to meet criteria for grants and funding - she said she developed a love of teaching adults, and especially beginners, over the years.

"Children learn effortlessly and without guile, because they don't have a lot of ego yet," she said. "But when an adult learns a new skill, they are still very vulnerable. And when you guide them to success, they are more lit up than any kid I've seen. And that has sustained me for 33 years in Victoria."

Now Raino plans to pursue her own projects. She recently received a grant to develop a new work - and as part of the deal with Salez, she'll have unlimited access to classes at the school, as well as studio space.

After putting her feelers out to four potential buyers, Raino said Salez was an easy choice.

"I've known her since she was a teenager. She feels almost like a daughter to me," she said. "I've mentored her as a teacher and a dancer. She understands the mandate of the school. She knows me intimately and knows what I have done here and what I want continued. She's young and energetic. She's got great business sense. It was just a nobrainer. It was a perfect fit."

Salez, now 41, was still at Oak Bay High School when she met Raino. She was good friends with Raino's niece, who brought the two together so Raino could "clean" a dance piece Salez was working on.

Since then, Salez has developed a close relationship with Raino, first looking after Raino's young sons, then studying modern dance with Raino and ultimately joining her roster as a teacher when she started the school's flamenco program in 2004.

Salez said she knew she wanted to dance from childhood and began taking classes soon after moving to Victoria from the Yukon at 13.

"I was a little pearshaped 13-year-old bush kid," she said. "Apparently, my parents said, I was constantly dragging my sister into the living room and forcing her to do my choreography."

Her mother signed her up for formal training with Bebe Eversfield, and, since then, she has danced with several local groups, including Stages Performing Arts School and more recently, Alma de España, where she learned and taught flamenco.

"I was basically a studio rat," she said.

Salez said she had been asked when she would open her own studio for nearly 10 years, having taught both dance and yoga for so long.

But the opportunity to buy Lynda Raino Dance came at just the right time, with her son entering high school and becoming more independent.

Current students will notice little change in the short term, she said.

"It was really important to Lynda and I that the tran-sition be respectful of the student body that is returning and not be this massive, arching change," she said. "I know that I will add to [the school's] success, but I'm always aware that I've been given really strong bones. I get to flesh it out the way that I want to flesh it out, but it's because the bones are so strong and the foundation is huge."

Salez has a few visions for the school - building its presence on social media; bringing back Upstairs Dancers, where students can choreograph and present their own works; strengthening summer programming, and transforming some of the Yates Street studio's unused square footage into dance space. But for the moment, she said, things will remain as they are.

"Right now, I'm interested in watching what's working and what's not. It's like when you buy a house. You don't dig up the garden. You watch it for a cycle of the year to see what comes up, what fruit grows and what doesn't," she said. "But obviously, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. And it ain't broke; it's running really well."

asmart@timescolonist.com

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