Annie Warf, owner of Riverside Performing Arts, has always had a passion for the arts.
Warf grew up dancing and began working as a performing arts teacher from a very young age. It was there that she fell in love with teaching and choreographing and as a teenager, she dreamed of starting her own performing arts school someday. In 2007, she made her dream a reality by leasing a building in downtown Vancouver and opening the doors to just three students.
Riverside Performing Arts offers a unique educational experience to people of all ages. There is a preschool and kindergarten with a special emphasis on the performing arts. Dance programs include classes in jazz, tap, ballet and tumbling, and the theater program offers students the foundation for strong skills in stage performance and public speaking. The company also provides a music program and there are music instructors available to teach guitar, cello, piano, ukulele and bass.
“I started my organization to bring together music, dance and theatre in a safe, nurturing, holistic approach,” Warf said. “I wanted to see children and adults of all ages learn how we use music, theatre and dance together and how each one is important to the other.”
Today, the company has more than 400 students and enrollment continues to increase year after year. In 2015, the student base grew so much that they outgrew the downtown location, which inspired the move to their current Hazel Dell facility.
“Our current facility offers three large studios dedicated to theatre and dance education in addition to two rooms dedicated to music education, and a preschool/kindergarten classroom,” Warf said. “Over the past 12 months, enrollment has increased 35 percent because of the high level of services offered by the institution.”
Riverside performers are actively involved in the community as well, where they participate in the Hazel Dell Parade of Bands, the Paddy Hough Parade and more.
Riverside Performing Arts has 14 employees and volunteers that come from a variety of backgrounds, including professional performance experience with companies such as Oregon Ballet Theater, Bodyvox, Disney and Lunacy Stage Works. The company also offers specialized workshops for the students with past guest instructors that include musicians from Portland Opera, Oregon Ballet Theater and other local professional performing arts organizations.
Looking ahead to what the future means for her company, Warf said she is excited about the continued growth that she is seeing in each program and is hopeful that the education that each student gets at Riverside Performing Arts gives them the foundation they need to pursue careers in the performing arts. She also acknowledges the need for finding a public performance venue in Vancouver that can serve the community well and plans to collaborate with other arts organizations and institutions in the area to help make this happen.
“Riverside Performing Arts prides itself on being the sole institution in Southwest Washington dedicated to giving young artists the pre-professional training that will establish a firm foundation for their future education in the arts,” Warf said.