Dancing Through the Years: The Greta Leeming Studio of Dance 

Before today’s vibrant grocery-anchored shopping destination with a variety of notable retailers, Loblaws Plaza in Ottawa had a limited number of retail tenants. Before FCR took ownership, there was one primary reason community members would commute to the intersection of Baseline Road and Merivale Road: to dance. This ritual continues today, thanks to the Greta Leeming Studio of Dance (GLS), a world-renowned institution that has been serving the community for 61 years and counting.

Dance for Tami-Lynn, the current owner of Greta Leeming, is as essential as breathing. Her career began when she was just 4 years old, and given her family’s legacy, she might have always been destined to own her own studio.

Only, Tami-Lynn didn’t anticipate she would run a studio as established as Greta Leeming Studio of Dance.

Her mother was a dance teacher, who opened her own studio called the Bonnie Lynn Armstrong School of Dance, and later her cousin opening the Holtz Studio of Dance, where she did her training.  Tami-Lynn began  teaching when she was 14 years old and has never stopped.

At the age of 17, Tami-Lynn joined the CFL as a cheerleader for Ottawa Rough Riders and continued working in the dance community with as a teacher and choreographer with local theatre companies. When a friend recommended her to Greta Robinson to take over as a dance teacher at her studio, the rest, for Tami-Lynn, is history.

Dancing Their Way to the Top 

Greta Leeming was the place to go for ballet training in the 60s, and through the years to provide premiere dance training in a multitude of disciplines including tap, jazz, hip hop and contemporary dance. Tami-Lynn recalls that Greta was always focused on getting the best talent and staff to provide the highest quality of training to expand in each discipline and often source staff and talent internationally.

Tami-Lynn observed the studio over the years as it modernized and grew under Greta’s ownership and became a pillar of the community, where Tami-Lynn eventually took over in 2011.

She also explains that the majority of the staff that currently work at Greta Leeming in fact were Greta Leeming students, Tami-Lynn claims the staff hold themselves to a high level of excellence “(they) understand the quality of training that is expected from experience, whether you are two years old or an adult, you are going to get quality training”.

Tami-Lynn continued to evolve her dance career while working at Greta Leeming, and she supported Greta as the studio grew, which led to Greta offering her more responsibilities. Tami-Lynn eventually approached her and asked if she could take over the studio, and once Greta was ready to retire, she happily handed over the keys to the kingdom. She worked closely with Greta during this transition to ensure the studio would continue under the same principles.

“I thought about changing the name (of the studio), but there’s prestige behind the name Greta Leeming that benefits our students, dancers from Greta Leeming are recognized internationally for their talent”

  • Tami-Lynn Caloia, Owner/Director of GLS 

The GLS Community & Importance of Mentorship 

Dozens and dozens of dancers have moved on from Greta Leeming to professional jobs whether it be opening their own dance studios, to performing on Broadway, TV and movie sets. Some notable movies and shows include The Radio City Rockettes, The Music Man, Jersey Boys, and Hairspray.

Tami-Lynn believes at her core what sets this studio apart from the rest is her dedicated staff, and their expertise for each area of dance “There are no generalists here, only experts that specialize in every lane of dance.” When Tami-Lynn gained ownership there were 18 staff, and she had to immediately carry the dance studio as well as the competitive program, while learning to navigate those relationships and keep the community strong around her.

Tami-Lynn summarizes the studio as providing “… quality instruction, a professional and positive atmosphere, and a place for everyone”. She recognizes that dance class teaches kids many skills other than just dancing, building on their collaboration, time management and discipline.

  • Tami-Lynn Caloia, Owner/Director of GLS 

“Kids need life skills more than anything to learn how to collaborate and build their confidence.” She notes on the mentorship her studio provides for young children, citing that Greta Leeming teaches “…life skills just as much as dance”.

Today, they host approximately 130 dance classes every week, with 500+ dancers registered. Not all these dancers are children, there are over 100 adults registered at her studio and Tami-Lynn has introduced adult intensives and bootcamps for beginners, intermediates, and advanced dancers.

“When people take on dance as adults, they have a new zest for life and expression of self. It’s amazing that we can facilitate and encourage that.”

  • Tami-Lynn Caloia, Owner/Director of GLS 

Dance is a special community outside your everyday life, and Tami-Lynn has witnessed an endless number of life-long friendships and bonds formed at Greta Leeming. If there’s one thing she can’t emphasize enough, it’s that dance can benefit everyone.

“The biggest misconception is when people say they are not good enough to dance at Greta Leeming… we’ve expanded our curriculum so there is something here for everyone.”

  • Tami-Lynn Caloia, Owner/Director of GLS 

Location and Community Is Everything  

Tami-Lynn is extremely grateful for everything First Capital has done for the surrounding neighbourhood, bringing some amazing retail tenants and neighbours.

“Since First Capital has come in, we have everything, we have Starbucks, Pet Valu, Nando’s. I worked here for 25 years with nothing… Tim Horton’s being a 20-minute walk was the closest we had, and the Loblaws.”

  • Tami-Lynn Caloia, Owner/Director of GLS 

Tami-Lynn loves the diversity of the tenants and feels that the surrounding stores give her great exposure to potential new customers and vice versa.

What’s next, you might ask? She is looking forward to evolving in the space they are currently in and expanding their classes offerings even further.

“I’d like to work with seniors next, there’s so many things I’d like to do within the perimeters of my current location. I don’t want to run the risk of losing the quality we’ve maintained all this time.”

  • Tami-Lynn Caloia, Owner/Director of GLS 

Since its inception, GLS has helped thousands of young dancers reach their full potential, with many moving on to become company dancers, entertainers, as well as dance education professionals. If you’ve always been curious to take up dancing, this might be your sign to start. For those who live in and around Ottawa, stop by Greta Leeming Studio of Dance located in Loblaws Plaza.

To learn more about the studio, head to their website linked here and follow them on Instagram linked here.