Meet the Studio Founder Who Used Dance to Deal with Grief

Saschie MacLean-Magbanua on how she made it happen

(Photo: Andrea Fernandez)
(Photo: Andrea Fernandez)

Name: Saschie MacLean-Magbanua

Job title: Founder, Formation Studio

Age: 30

From: Vancouver

Currently lives in: Vancouver

Education: BBA, Simon Fraser University; public relations diploma, Kwantlen Polytechnic University

First job out of school: Account Coordinator at a PR agency

In 2014, Saschie MacLean-Magbanua lost her younger sister, Chantal Yvonne, in a car accident just two weeks before her 26th birthday. “In my grieving process, I had been sitting on the couch eating potato chips and watching Grey’s Anatomy, using that form of escapism to cope,” she recalls. When a friend invited her to a casual dance class, she decided to say yes, going in with zero expectations but leaving having experienced a form of therapy. “It was the first hour I wasn’t in my own head and thinking about all that I was going through,” she says. “That was the feeling that I wanted to carry and revisit.” Inspired by that experience, MacLean-Magbanua started RSVP33, a series of drop-in dance classes, in her hometown of Vancouver the following year. She expected to have a bunch of friends show up in support, but ended up being over capacity with a community eager to take her classes.

RSVP33 quickly evolved from once-a-week classes to three times a week and even expanded with classes offered in Calgary and Toronto. The beginner-friendly classes lean into R&B, hip hop and pop with music informed largely by song requests from the attendees. (Think Beyoncé- and Ariana Grande-inspired playlists.) MacLean-Magbanua has balanced the growing community with a full-time PR job in travel tourism. It has remained a side hustle, even as she realizes bigger dreams for the business alongside her husband and RSVP33 business partner, Roman.

This fall, RSVP33—since re-branded as Formation Studio—opened its first permanent studio space in Vancouver. The dance studio is all about a relaxed atmosphere (there’s no desk separating the staff from attendees in the check-in area), an immersive space (which includes a living room with a no-scrolling zone) and expanded class offerings. MacLean-Magbanua’s journey from starting dance classes to operating a full-scale dance studio has helped her in more ways than one. “Being able to advocate for myself and have that inner confidence to know that what we’re creating is exceptional—that has been huge for me.”

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