Dancers from across the Peace Region leapt and pirouetted across the stage for the first time this season at the 12th annual Peace River Dance Festival on March 16 and 17.
The festival, which is hosted by the Peace Region Dance Society (PRDS), featured dancers from PRDS and four guest studios from around the region, including Spirit Arts Dance Society from Spirit River, Repertoire Dance from High Prairie, Smokey River Dance Society from Falher, and the Peace River Scottish Society.
“This is the most northern festival in Alberta,” explains festival committee co-coordinator Emily Smith. “It gives local families and families from not so far away the ability to have adjudicated dance within their reach. They don’t have to travel, they don’t have to have the high expense of going to Edmonton. It’s also just two days on the weekend instead of four days like a lot of festivals.”
It’s definitely important to have a local festival for dance families,” she adds. “It gives dancers a chance to have their families come and cheer them on and to get some feedback before they head up to other festivals. It’s a good positive way to kick things off for our season.”
Smith, who has fond memories of competing in highland dance herself as a child, says competing in dance festivals give kids a chance to experience camaraderie and learning opportunities they wouldn’t get otherwise.
“I believe it really does develop great people that are able to take critique and learn from that and grow and be part of team, and put something together and then perform that and be passionate about it. It’s super important for building confidence,” she says.
“The little ones just love watching the big ones and the big ones cheer on the little ones backstage.”
The festival was adjudicated by Nola Antony, who has been teaching and performing many styles of dance for over 25 years and adjudicates for dance competitions across Canada.
She has worked as a choreographer for the 2010 Olympic Torch celebration and multicultural celebrations in Fort McMurray. Antony gave two workshops to attending dancers, one for beginner and novice jazz dancers and one for junior and intermediate contemporary dancers, and she awarded an online scholarship to Canada’s National Academy of Dance education during her workshops to Repertoire Dance’s Madison Price.
Overall dance awards for most outstanding performance of the festival was awarded to Spirit Arts Dance Society’s tap group Shawty Got Moves. From Repertoire Dance, GrayceKeay won for her jazz solo while Madison Price won for her lyrical solo. Four dances from PRDS also won most outstanding awards, including Gold Rush for ballet, This is Love for contemporary, and Prison of Decision for acro dance. Rachel Greidanus also won the hip hop category with her solo.
Dance teachers who won choreography awards included Miss Leah Serhan of PRDS for Blooming Lotus, Bamboo Village, the Ocean and Slow Me Down, Miss Sam Greenacre of PRDS who won choreography awards for What I Like About You and Night of the Dancing Flame, and Miss Tanisha Maltais of PRDS who won a choreography award for her Canon in D Major. Madison Price and GrayceKeay’s duet choreographed by Jake Poloz also won a choreography award for Repertoire Dance.
Last but not least, winner of the tidiest dressing room was Spirit Arts Dance Society.
Overall, the festival ran very smoothly, Smith says.
“It helps that we’ve done this before, so the committee worked as a well-oiled machine this year,” she says, crediting her festival co-coordinator Katrina Martin, and committee members Lori Knoblauch, Angie Fortin, and Charlene Parker.
The festival couldn’t run without the help of all of the parent volunteers who do everything from sell tickets at the door to running the concession to cleaning up after the event.
“It’s huge that we have the support of our club. Our volunteer lists filled up really quickly this year and we’re really grateful for that,” Smith says.
Smith says the festival also would not have been possible without grants from Northern Sunrise County, the County of Northern lights and the Town of Peace River. The small business Plain to Polished also donated bath bombs as “Love to Dance” awards given out by the adjudicator, while trophies were donated by OT Sports. Chateau Nova supported the festival by providing a block of hotel rooms, and Peace River High School continues to help the festival by providing their gym and facilities and helping with tasks like loading floors.
The competitive PRDS dance troupe will now take a spring break before heading to festivals across the province, including the Sundance Stars Dance Festival and Standing Ovation festivals in Fort Saskatchewan, the Terpischore Northern Force Dance Challenge in Calgary, and the Northern Force Dance Challenge in Grande Prairie.