When Allison Sidnell arrived at Vancouver’s Jack Poole Plaza for last fall’s Grey Cup football game, her focus wasn’t on the competing teams; it was on the dance team she founded while attending Simon Fraser University (SFU) that would be performing for an audience of more than 50,000 people.
“We were on top of the world,” says Sidnell, BA ’12, of the experience, which was televised across the country. “It was just so much fun.”
Sidnell’s dancing career has taken her to other unusual places: she will appear as an extra in the movie 50 Shades of Grey, opening on Valentine’s Day. That started out as a bit of a joke, she says.
“My friends and I heard that they were filming in Vancouver and looking for extras, so we all decided to apply. The application process was lengthy, and nobody else heard back, but I got a call from the casting director the next day and ended up being in a scene with the main actors.” While she’s not allowed to give away any secrets, Sidnell says “It was riveting! And also exhausting – I had to be there at 6 a.m. and we were still shooting at 2 a.m. the following morning.”
A role in 50 Shades of Grey was probably not what Sidnell’s mother had in mind when she enrolled her daughter in dance classes in their home town of Milton, Ont., at age two. But those first lessons proved highly influential – Sidnell fell in love with dancing right from the start and by age six was entering dance competitions.
After graduating high school, Sidnell enrolled at U of G. “I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do because I was interested in so many subjects. I started with English, then transferred to zoology, and finally graduated in psychology,” she says. As a student, she started a part-time job at the Guelph Academy of Dance and discovered a love of teaching she hadn’t expected.
With this new career focus, Sidnell applied to SFU and was the first (and so far only) person to be accepted to that institution’s new post-baccalaureate dance program. She will graduate in May 2015.
“I love this program,” she says. “I’m studying under some of the world’s best instructors.”
Despite the high-quality dance program, Sidnell was disappointed to learn there was no dance team. She and one of her friends decided to start one, and soon the team was performing at SFU basketball and football games. SFU is the only school in Canada that has sports teams in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), and it plays against primarily American schools.
“Because we had performed at these games, the CFL became aware of us, and that’s how we got the invitation to dance at the Grey Cup,” she explains.
After graduation, Sidnell plans to return to Ontario. While she’s enjoyed her on-screen moments, she remains committed to becoming a dance teacher.
“My dream would be to one day open my own dance studio,” she says. “I want to help my students explore their artistic and creative potential through dance and through choreography. I want them to discover, as I have, that no dream or goal is unattainable.”