The Story of Pulse Studios

By Sarah Sussman

Read the original story on Yellow Pages here.

Growing Calgary’s hip-hop community

One of the cornerstones in Calgary’s growing hip-hop community, Pulse Studios opened its doors in 2011 as the first and only dance studio in Calgary exclusive to hip-hop and street dance. “I really wanted to establish a place where authentic education could take place, and where people could be assured that if they come here they’re going to know what hip-hop is,” says Pulse Studios owner and creative director Tara Wilson.

Pulse Studios was founded by Tara, along with her ex-husband Peter Strickland, and Gill Co and Vince Truong. At the time, Gill and Vince were looking to open up a hip-hop focused community centre and Tara was looking for a more permanent location to hold her dance classes, so they all decided to combine forces. Thanks to the support and financial backing of Tara’s ex-husband Peter, Pulse Studios officially opened in January 2011.

“Part of the vision is that hip-hop really healed my life and has given me so many gifts. So I am very committed to it being a community expression,” Tara says. “I headed up the dance studio aspect and Vince and Gill did the marketing and planned events.” Tara has more than 15 years of experience as a dancer, choreographer and teacher and holds a degree in dance from the University of Calgary. While Tara started as a contemporary dancer, she quickly latched on to hip-hop and street dance, learning her form from many of the pioneers of dance within North America.

Due to her extensive experience in the community, taking on the creative director role was a no-brainer for Tara. “I feel I was the person to do that because I have been developing a really vast and deep knowledge of the dances and the culture from many of the pioneers of these dances and just by luck, have had good fortune to have learned about all the dances from many of the originators," she says.

I really wanted to establish a place where authentic education could take place, and where people could be assured that if they come here they’re going to know what hip-hop is.
— Tara Wilson, Owner
Tara Wilson is the owner and creative director of Pulse Studios, the first and only dance studio in Calgary exclusive to hip-hop and street dance. Photo submitted by Pulse Studios.

Tara Wilson is the owner and creative director of Pulse Studios, the first and only dance studio in Calgary exclusive to hip-hop and street dance. Photo submitted by Pulse Studios.

Something for everyone

Upon entry, Pulse Studios boasts massive, windowed studio rooms and (almost always) has classic hip-hop records booming throughout the building. The studio is open daily, with classes starting as early as 9:30 a.m.  Programming includes funk, popping, voguing, waacking, house and hip-hop and is available for adults, teenagers, the plus-30 crowd and children as young as three.

Though many first-time dancers are intimidated at the thought of trying to dance in a class surrounded by other people, Tara says that Pulse Studios’ aim is to create a safe space in an inclusive environment. “It’s really beautiful because I feel like there’s literally something for everyone here,” she says.

The studio also offers a special youth program called Beast Machine for children ages eight and up who want to pursue dance on a more serious level. The program runs for the duration of September through June and is open to all students. “They’re getting exposed to a more elite training but that company is actually not audition-based. It’s just for any children that want to work hard and commit to the program,” Tara explains. The Beast Machine program allows dancers to work with some of the biggest names in the dance community, as well as pioneers of choreography and hip-hop dance.

“I think one thing that I’m very proud of is that the faculty that I have here at the studio is really exceptional,” Tara says. “I feel that they are the best dancers that I could possibly have working. There’s kids that come here but they’re learning breaking from one of the top b-boys in Canada and they’re learning hip-hop from these well-educated, amazing dancers.”

Pulse Studios students perform outside along 4th Street S.W. at the 2016 Lilac Festival in Calgary. Photo by Glen Co Photography

Pulse Studios students perform outside along 4th Street S.W. at the 2016 Lilac Festival in Calgary. Photo by Glen Co Photography

The Pulse of the community

In addition to offering classes out of its studio, Pulse remains active within the local community, performing at reoccurring events like the monthly 10 at 10 hip-hop showcase, the annual 4th Street Lilac Festival, various fundraisers and more. “We’re kind of all over the place and trying to be in as many places as we can be,” Tara says.

Pulse co-founder Vince Truong is also involved with the 5 Kings breaking competition, which is an elimination-style five-on-five crew dance battle that takes place every year in Calgary. The Pulse Studios instructor roster also includes local dancers like Sabrina Naz, Gomo, Bboy Siahnara and more. Each member of the Pulse Studios team is actively involved in the community and actively helping to build the local hip-hop and dance scenes. The passion for dance is infectious and something that Tara says she feels very fortunate to be able to share with Calgarians.

“I step into the studio and it’s just this sacred place of joy and complete focus, which is so freeing. And I’m so grateful to have something in my life that just takes me away,” she says. “Dance for me is such a healing experience, so to dance in a teaching way makes me happy. Dancing just makes me happy.”

Pulse Studios students perform at the studio's 2016 year-end show. Photo by Glen Co Photography

Pulse Studios students perform at the studio's 2016 year-end show. Photo by Glen Co Photography