'Kinda overwhelming': Sydney event raises $50K for local dance studios

A fundraiser for five Sydney dance studios in need of major repairs raised $50,000 during a three-night run in Sydney of an original contemporary dance show.

Actor and dancer Thomas Colford organized the fundraiser to give back to the place where he learned to dance

An original contemporary dance show titled Chiaroscuro was performed for the fundraiser. (Gerard Gouthro)

A fundraiser for five Sydney dance studios in need of major repairs raised $50,000 during a three-night run of an original contemporary dance show in Sydney.

The fundraiser was the brainchild of Thomas Colford, who is originally from Sydney. The professional dancer and actor now lives in Toronto, and wanted to help the studios where he spent countless hours practising as he was growing up.

"It honestly couldn't have gone better," said Colford. "I was very happy with how the team and the cast did and how people responded to it. In my books, that's a success."

Colford's thrilled he met his $50,000 fundraising target, which many people told him was too lofty a goal. 

"I was lucky that I had the right people to help me prove them wrong," said Colford with a chuckle. "It's incredible. It was kinda overwhelming how much support we got for this show."

Thomas Colford organized the dance fundraiser that will benefit five Cape Breton dance studios, such as Denise Jardine's D & R Dance. (Norma Jean MacPhee/CBC)

Colford left Nova Scotia at 16 and built a career that has seen him dance for Janet Jackson, in a Shawn Mendes music video, and act on the Family Channel and Disney Channel.

D & R Dance Studio in North Sydney will be one of the five studios to receive funding.

"The dancers that will be coming in will be dancing in a better space now. That increases the amount of things you can do," said owner and operator Denise Jardine.

She said they're humbled by Colford's efforts and beyond thankful.

Jardine attended all three performances of Chiaroscuro and said there was a lot of love and energy in the building.

"People didn't even have to talk. It was more about how you felt when you left, and you could just look at somebody and they'd get it," she said.

Lesley MacLean (left), Breanna Hall (centre) and Willow Wrathall (right) are three of the local dancers that performed in the show. (Josh Moore)

The production was cast with dancers from Cape Breton. Jardine said the show brought the local dance community together.

"Now, the dancers are hungry. It's like they have a fire under their feet and the more you give them, the more they want," said Jardine.

With the show finished, Colford will disburse the money so repairs can begin on the floors, roof and siding at the various dance studios. 

He said he wouldn't be where he is today without the support of the teachers and the studios.

"It's a real privilege to get the chance to thank them, to get to do something to start to pay them back," said Colford.