Gold medals and dance scholarships are up for grabs at the 2022 Prince Albert Festival of Dance, but for most dancers, just getting back on stage with a live audience is a huge reward.
Performers from eight Saskatchewan dance studios descended on the E.A. Rawlinson Centre Thursday for the first day of competition. For Prince Albert dancers, it’s a chance to meet friends, perfect their craft, and draw inspiration from the roughly 370 performers present.
“It’s super exciting,” said Allie Lepine, a dancer from Bold Dance Productions in Prince Albert. “I really miss the stage because haven’t danced in two years and it kind of sucked last year having to do it on video. I’m really excited to be back (in front of) an audience.”
The 2020 Festival of Dance was one of the first events cancelled due to the spread of COVID-19. The next year, dancers like Lepine spent more time competing virtually in an effort to limit the spread.
Festival director Rene Boden said full credit goes to dance teachers across the province who found unique and creative ways to keep their classes going.
“Dance teachers have done their best over time with restrictions, (and) having to stay within their little square,” Boden explained. “They’ve been able to open that up now and so now their choreography is back to the level that it was before.”
Dance festival performers range from age five to 18, and most say there are significant benefits to getting to meet and watch your peers in person.
Leigha Dunn, another Bold Dance Productions performer, said everyone wants to be the best dancer they can be. Having competitors from across the province in one place helps give everyone an extra boost.
“You get to experience and see all of the other things that other dancers can do, and it makes you want to push yourself harder to see what you’re capable of,” Dunn explained. “It makes you reach a bit further for your goals if you don’t necessarily win. It’s kind of a letdown, but at the same time, it pushes you to do more.”
Both Lepine and Dunn said they were nervous at the prospect of getting back on the E.A. Rawlinson stage after so much time since the last regular festival. However, the excitement drowned out the nerves as they prepared to compete.
“It’s really good to just see everybody else, to see all the different types of dances and different tricks and everything that everyone else can do,” Lepine said. “Just socializing with other people and making friends and everything like that, it just makes you feel more comfortable in the space. It’s just super nice to have everybody else here.”
“It’s really nice because you get to be in the action and see everybody else perform,” Dunn added. “Last year with COVID and everything, you only got to see your own groups perform and you didn’t really get to watch it much. You just got to sit there, but you couldn’t really be near everybody because you had to be spaced out and you couldn’t do groups, so it’s really nice to be able to be with everybody else.”
Dancers in the hip hop and ballet categories competed on Wednesday. The remaining performances will run until Sunday, April 3.
Session tickets are available for $5 at the doors. Streaming options are also available for $5 on the E.A. Rawlinson website.