By BERNIE BELLAN For Robyn Braha, dance has been an integral part of her life for over 40 years. A former dance director with the Chai Folk Ensemble, which she joined when she was 16, in 1997 Robyn also started her own dance company, known as “Beyachad, Robyn Braha School of Dance.”
“A bit of history,” Robyn wrote in an email she recently sent to us: “I danced with Chai for 8 years, travelled with them to Mexico for the Aviv festival multiple times, to Disney World, Israel and on tour through the NW USA.”
In an article written by Myron Love in 2000, he explained how Robyn developed her deep love for dance: “AIthough Chai and Israeli dance have been an important part of Braha’s life for many years, her dance range goes far beyond Chai. She began taking dance lessons at the Royal Dance Conservatory. For the past two years, she has been a Blue Bomber cheerleader.
“I did jazz dancing when I was younger,” she says. “A friend encouraged me to try out for the cheerleading squad. It has been a lot of fun. It’s a relaxing environment, and the other girls are wonderful. It is nice to have the diversity.”
In that same email Robyn had sent to us, she added that “We have been partnering with the Rady JCC, and the Lisa Cohen Israeli Dance Program, and offer Israeli Dance, Hip Hop, Lyrical and creative movement dance classes after school at the Rady JCC. We are about to begin our 25th season in September which runs through to April. The program offers classes from 2 years old to adult. Registration has now started for this year’s program.”
Robyn continues: “Over the past few years the program and travel opportunities have really grown as the kids performed at one of the largest Israeli Dance Festivals in Miami, for Disney World and Universal Studios and at Israeli dance festivals throughout Canada and of course for community events like Yom Ha’atzmaut.
“We really focus on creating a fun and inclusive dance environment, where we work with each dancer to advance their own skill level, with of course a great celebration at the end of the season recital. We have been performing our annual recitals at MTYP (with the exception of during Covid). It is amazing that we have dancers that started with us in that very first year that are still involved with the program now. We are very excited to bring back many members of our dance family to reunite at this year’s celebration.”
But Robyn’s connection to dancing, which led to frequent visits to Florida with Beyachad, has also added an entirely new dimension to her life, as she explains in her email: Building giant decorations of balloons for kids who are staying in Florida under the auspices of the “Make a Wish Foundation.”
As she explains, “I have been doing balloons for a couple of years, mostly for community events, like for the Rady or Gray Academy. It was a hobby that grew into something bigger over the past couple of years. I am still teaching dance and this year is our 25th anniversary so balloons come second to that.”
Robyn goes on to say that “A few weeks ago I took part in the biggest balloon build in the world in Orlando, Florida in support of the “Give Kids the World Village.” This is where critically ill kids stay with their families when they are granted their wish through the “Make a Wish Foundation” to visit Disney World.
“Give Kids the World Village is an 89-acre non profit resort in Kissimmee, Florida that provides week long cost free vacations to critically ill children and their families from around the world,” Robyn adds.
“My involvement was originally based on the balloon work that I do so I went to go and volunteer my services to help with this fundraiser. Through my involvement I had a couple of people from our community in Winnipeg reach out to me to let me know that they got to stay at that village when their kids were granted a wish from the Make a Wish Foundation, and for another family that they will be staying there in the near future when their child is granted their wish.
“Through the event we used 500,000 balloons, the biggest balloon build ever, and I was one of 14 Canadians. In total 300 Balloon artists from around the world took part. There was also a representative from Israel assisting as well.”
“I came across the event through the people I keep in touch with throughout the Balloon artist community around the world, and wasn’t sure if the event would take place given all the impact Covid has had, but it did, and it was incredible. I didn’t know about the community connections until I started sharing on Facebook the journey of the event. Every day I shared the progress we made as we turned an enormous room into a replica of the village. I got a lot of support from our community, positive messages, and cheering us on, which was wonderful.
“We built the balloons all week and then on the Friday the balloon world was open to the kids and their families who were staying at the village, and on Saturday is was open to the public to purchase tickets and all funds raised went back to GKTW.
“The space covered 30,000 sq feet, and had displays as high as 24 feet.”