Deborah Pearce: Profile - First the Volta, then the Dance
How do you describe the soul of a place? Volta Café's eclectic essence of antiquity, old-world fare and arts expression was alive in the ambience of friends, neighbours, artists, dancers and actors sharing summer ice cream, espresso specialties, or hearty warmth on cold winter days.
"The heart has gone out of downtown! I am so sad." Karrine, who had been away during the closing stages of Volta, returned to the locked door and darkened front window.
The art and dance-shoe café was the expression, the vehicle, for a people place. Volta attracted the appreciation for art in living and an unpretentious creative experience. Its attraction was "heart" and likewise invited the same. "We miss your soup" they wistfully tell me. The soothing comfort of great soup has more appeal than just about anything maybe even chocolate!
The entrance through the heavy wooden door (a story in itself) was as "into someone's living room." Honey fir floor scarred by the years, brick walls with patches of original plaster and the creative mix of art, dance shoes and retro furniture drew visitors in. "I just want to 'feel' this," said one lady.
The Kelowna Cultural District community and area businesses, among many profiles of the Volta "family," found relaxing refuge over coffee house style food and drinks. The acquaintance and friendship of the neighbourhood was pure delight; there is no better purpose. "The heart of the Cultural District," said Nathan Flavel of Actor's Studio.
Europeans especially sought out its rustic ambience "home." A young lady from Japan landed in Volta's lap and breathlessly exclaimed, "I just flew in from Montreal three hours ago this is just like Montreal!" Others reminisced of old city districts of France, Germany or Italy.
"But what does Volta mean?"
The volta, a risqué European street
dance became what else but the waltz! The
"twirl" lifted the long skirts, revealing ladies' ankles.
I first knew it as a samba step. A visit to Greece had further inspired me. The Greeks have
the wonderfully civilized social custom, the evening stroll the volta. Walking the
narrow marble streets, they commune and meet friends at the
kafenias (cafés). Volta transliterates into turnabout or return.
My customers had their versions Italians insisted it was Italian; Portuguese likewise. There are Volta regions, rivers and musical terms. It is a widely used Mediterranean word; and each language has a slightly different translation.
The inventor of the battery, Allesandro Volta is the origin of the word volt(s). Hmmm, voltage is there an association with coffee?
All in all, the name truly symbolized my intention for Volta Café.
Some Volta clients developed romanticized ideas that I was a professional. I'm a dedicated dance enthusiast with a heart to promote dance in the community. Quality dance shoes are few and far between, so I supplied dance shoes to BC dancers.
The eclectic mix of café with art and dance shoes drew amused and amusing responses. The keynote speaker's address to a local cultural conference was related to me. A New Yorker, she mentioned an evening walk in Kelowna's Cultural District; pressing her face to the window, she discovered to her amazement, coffee ... and dance shoes!
There were many (some notorious) stories about 1387 Ellis Street offered by
neighbours and passers-by. A tall white-haired gentleman came each summer for coffee and
a treat. As a boy he'd crossed the street from his grandparents' house (now the
library parkade site) for candy at Waldren's store (Volta location). A couple who walked by
every day said they'd raised their family in the
house across the laneway 50 years previous. They'd
A young lady in her teens always sat near the elegant dance shoes at Volta, chatting while sharing a pot of tea. Her admiration of the display on the glass shelves unmistakably revealed that she was dreaming herself into those shoes. After three years she disclosedthe dream and I delighted in the excitement of fitting her first ballroom dance shoes. On the counter she purposefully laid, one over the next, the bills she'd saved; then promptly joined Warren Eaton's salsa classes.
The old foundry bricks of the little building that had been Volta were hauled away on pallets and live on somewhere. The property sits under a load of earth packing. Volta's memory is a dream fulfilled in the unforgettable exchanges and connections with people who were the best customers in the world. Meeting on the street I fondly agree, "... there's no place like it!"
"Will there be another Volta?" Possibly so under the right circumstances. Meanwhile, I have been writing and marketing my return to interior design and home staging.
And did I say I'm dancing?!
Structured partner dance is the runaway success of recent television series and movies. Awareness is widening with the dedication of dancers to a wonderful sport and art form. Media has recognized the exciting process of growth!
People are incredulous that dance even exists in Kelowna. Volta supplied quality dance shoes to BC dancers. Barely in the door of the shop, faces would fill with quizzical delight, "There's dance in Kelowna?! People really dance in these shoes? Where do you dance?"
My initiation into dance 12 years ago was with Diane Pratt from Toronto. Trained in
International Ballroom and Latin in England, she competed and trained Canadian and
North American Latin champions before coming to Kelowna. She showcases performances
annually and is invited to judge competitions. "Diane's Dancesport" teaches all levels.
"Let's Dance Kelowna" was formed as a
Also trained in England, Warren Eaton specializes in International Latin. Warren became part of the neighbourhood contribution to Volta's charm on his 2004 arrival to Kelowna. A short jaunt over between studio lessons, he could be found with his favourite Volta salad and pomegranate soda. Warren's "Latinesque" students have been sweeping top competitive placements (latinesque.com). Warren and Diane have partnered in spectacular performance showcases.
Kelowna is rich with dance styles and instructors; we have amazing talent in various styles of couple's social dance. Latin is my personal favourite and I focused on Argentine Tango with Sharon and Rob Sebo.
At this writing, Kelowna's first
international-style Ballroom and Latin dance studio is
in the works. The valley is alive with amazing people who dance they just might be
your friends and neighbours!
Deborah Pearce is a dance enthusiast, still supplies dance shoes and specializes in custom-fitting. Since closing Volta she has returned to interior design, and operates Living Spaces Design. Photograph: Michael Hintringer.