It’ll be dancing with the sails from now on!

If the calculator is working, 32,200 kids have shed their street clothes, slipped on leotards and run for the dance floor. And that’s not counting adults. These are the numbers who have participated in Carol Gillstrom’s dance classes since she opened her doors in the main living room at the Knights of Columbus Hall in 1987. Two years later, she rented the guts of a building at the corner of Anne and Brock St. and there she’s been ever since.

Carol Gillstrom and dance are synonymous in Barrie. Her June recitals, with families all a-hush as their little ones (and not-so-little ones) perform their routines in a theatre setting, were an annual celebration of achievement. Her Huronia Company, the more serious performers, have presented 17 galas in the past 23 years.

Feet. Feet. Feet. Music. Bodies. Movement. Light. Heavy. Up. Down. Carol takes the magic in music and infuses people with love of dance.

She arrived in Barrie in 1980 with a newly minted bachelor of fine arts in dance from York University. She got her first job with Heather Fraser at the Barrie Y. Seven years later her business was born.

And now? Well, Carol is hanging up her ballet shoes. When she stands en pointe, it’ll be to stretch upwards to pull one of many ropes that will direct the sails and the rudder of the sailboat that will become her home.

Carol and her husband, Ken, stood in a marina in Picton a few years ago. Carol’s dad had died of Alzheimers at age 75. She and Ken looked at their grown children and the blank canvas that stretched before them. They decided to sell the house they created out of Patterson Rd wilderness 25 years ago. Living in a tent with a toddler, putting the main muscle into the house they built for themselves… this couple knows how to set and achieve a goal.

So, now, out of the house (which is for sale) and back into something about the size of a tent. They commissioned a design from boat architect Ted Brewer of Gabriola Island. They’ve built from aluminum a 44 foot sailboat in their back yard, working under tarps. In cold weather, they’ve worked indoors building all the cabinetry, fitting it into a model they erected in their living room. Their move will be to less than 400 square feet.

And then? They want to sail the world. But they are not doing a circumnavigation trip. They’re doing this in series of sessions… first on Georgian Bay where they’ll take clients up and down the shores, out the great lakes system to the St Lawrence and down the eastern seabord to spend next winter in the Caribbean.

Then the next trip will take them across to the Azores, then to England and the British Isles; another to the Canary islands and back to the Caribbean.

Carol and Ken expect to sail the whole world in this loopy fashion, taking guests when guests want to book to go.

They’re paring down their life, ridding themselves of everything they thought mattered. They’re keeping one thing… a small lot on Georgian Bay near Collingwood. For coming home to. No build on it just yet, but a tent will do nicely, thank you very much!

To celebrate her work, Carol has put Huronia Dance Theatre up for sale (or for sail!) and is holding a gala production with several of her 75 serious dancers in this show. This extravaganza will offer a collection of dances through the years.
Tuesday, June 15, 7:30 pm, proceeds to Alzheimer Society. Tickets $15 & $20 from Lisa King, 726-9567,

If you want to follow Carol and Ken as they head out on this important next phase of their lives, there’s a website and an accompanying blog…

What dream makers! To both of you… thanks!