Avery Gellhorn and Sarah L’Abbe have performed so many times at Dance Blast it’s hard to keep track.
They both started dancing at the festival around the age of nine, and have been mainstays at the annual competition ever since. The 2023 competition marks the last time they’ll perform here, since they’re both graduating in June.
While the two Performing Arts Warehouse dancers may not know exactly how many years it has been, they are certain about one thing: Dance Blast has had a major impact on their lives.
“You really need to savour every single moment because you will never experience anything quite like this,” Gellhorn says. “It really is a special thing and you just need to be grateful for it and be in the moment and really just experience it with your full being.”
“We’ve grown up coming here every single year and just travelling around doing competitions. It’s a very surreal feeling,” L’Abbe adds. “There’s going to be a lot of emotions—very high and very low—but it’s just so much fun. We’re just happy to do it again.”
The Prince Albert Performing Arts Warehouse (PAW) is one of 12 Saskatchewan dance studios represented at this year’s event. More than 500 individual dancers will take part, a slight increase over the year before.
Amy Wilcox Gellhorn, the PAW president, says it’s the highlight of the year for many dance students.
“Dancers are performers,” she says. “They live to perform. It’s fine for them to have classes to go in and learn their skills, but being on a stage—especially a beautiful stage like here at the Rawlinson—for some of the little ones, it’s a dream come true. For the bigger ones, it’s where they feel at home.”
Both L’Abbe and Gellhorn have danced in festivals across Saskatchewan, but have a special appreciation for Dance Blast. Not only is it their homes festival, it’s a chance to connect with other dancers, receive feedback on their performances, and make connections that could lead to opportunities after they graduate.
“You go from small stages, big stages, slippery stages, stages with holes, you get to meet new people, all kinds of dancers, and it is really good life experience,” Gellhorn says. “Each competition is different in what the judges are looking for. It teaches you that your routine could be polished and perfect, but it might not be someone’s cup of tea. It’s just such a good life lesson.”
“You get so many different opinions from so many different people, and you get to see your dance from someone else’s perspective, and it’s also such a social thing too,” L’Abbe says. “When all of us and ours friends and our coaches are the closest, it’s at dance competitions. You never know where one dance might take you, because it’s opened doors—just from one dance.”
Both Gellhorn and L’Abbe performed during the first day of competition. Dance Blast continues with three more sessions on Friday, another three on Saturday, and two on Sunday.
Although the 2023 event marks the last Dance Blast for each performer, both Gellhorn and L’Abbe have plans to keep dancing after graduating. Gellhorn plans to attend York University in the fall to study dance, while L’Abbe will stick around Prince Albert for another year staying involved with PAW and receiving some more coaching.
Both say being involved with dance is one of the best things that has ever happened to them.
“If anyone is considering putting their child in dance, I think they should definitely try it out,” Gellhorn says. “It has given me lifelong friends and opportunities and just a love of something so much greater.”
Dance Blast continues Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at the E.A. Rawlinson Centre. Tickets are available at the door.