‘Sky’s the limit’ at annual dance festival

Matt Gardner
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Motivating young dancers to be the best they can be has always been a key focus of the Prince Albert Festival of Dance.

A hip hop dance group reaches the end of its routine at the 2012 Prince Albert Festival of Dance. This year’s festival will take place from Friday to Sunday at the E.A. Rawlinson Centre and includes morning, afternoon and evening sessions.

With the 11th annual festival set to take place this weekend at the E.A. Rawlinson Centre, organizers have incorporated that goal into the official theme of the event.

“We try to choose something each year to motivate the students that come to participate -- and ourselves as well,” festival vice-president Lizabeth Oleksinski said.

Noting the appearance of the official programs for this year’s festival, she added, “We chose the colour turquoise, and through that we developed the idea that our theme this year would be The Sky’s The Limit.”

The 2014 festival, which takes place from Friday to Sunday and includes morning, afternoon and evening sessions, also sees a slight modification to the usual format.

Where previous festivals took place over four days, this year’s will last for only three.

In terms of the number of dancers, organizers are expecting 300 dancers performing in more than 400 different numbers -- something of a decrease from last year’s numbers.

Oleksinski pointed out that last year’s Prince Albert Festival of Dance was one of the biggest ever -- in part due to buzz surrounding the event’s 10th anniversary -- while also noting the impact of scheduling.

“Quite a few other festivals (are taking place) on this exact same weekend throughout the province,” she said. “Saskatoon has one, Tisdale has one, Humboldt has one, and so a lot of dancers that may choose to come here have branched off into different places for this weekend.

“Our festival is usually later in April,” she added. “We kind of work around Easter and we didn’t go after Easter this year, we went before Easter -- and we found that that was a conflict with quite a few other things going on, so that’s what happened there.”

One figure that did not decrease was the amount of money handed out to performers as scholarships, which Oleksinski estimated at $17,000 in terms of cash awards or tuitions to summer schools and workshops.

That figure represents approximately one-third of the annual cost of putting on the dance festival.

“We work with roughly a $55,000 budget each year, so it’s not a small thing,” director Barry Hogeweide said with a chuckle.

Our purpose is to nurture dance in the community and students that are involved in it, and to give them something that motivates them and keeps them positive. Lizabeth Oleksinski

Aside from scholarships, that cost includes honorariums for the Rawlinson Centre -- in gratitude for use of the facility -- as well as the two adjudicators.

This year’s adjudicators, Daniella Rousal and Anali Reizvikh, are based respectively in Niagara Falls and Toronto, creating additional costs to pay for travel and accommodation.

While festival organizers raise money through entry fees and program sales, community sponsors are a crucial element in allowing them to hold the festival.

“We’re a non-profit organization, so we raise our money through the community,” Oleksinski said.

The six dance studios competing at this year’s festival include performers from Wilkie, Saskatoon and Lanigan. Representing Prince Albert are two studios, BOLD Dance Productions and the Performing Arts Warehouse.

Hogeweide noted the economic benefits that accrue to the city as a result of the annual festival.

“By bringing people in from out of town it gives economic spinoff back to the city that sometimes maybe goes unnoticed, because there’s a lot of hotel rooms that are taken, a lot of meals that are served to the people that come … because we cater to a lot of people (who) come from out of town,” he said.

As in previous years, the range of dance styles that will be on display include ballet, tap, jazz, modern, hip hop and musical theatre in both solo and group routines.

Returning to the theme of the event, Oleksinski highlighted the efforts of organizers to put dance in a broader context.

“Our purpose is to nurture dance in the community and students that are involved in it, and to give them something that motivates them and keeps them positive … wanting them to really just reach for the best they can be and just really give them experience to excel at what they like to do.”

Tickets to the P.A. Festival of Dance cost $3 per session and are available at the box office.

Morning sessions begin at 10 a.m. on Friday and 9 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Afternoon sessions on all three days start at 1 p.m. and evening sessions start at 6 p.m.

Organizations: Rawlinson Centre, Prince Albert

Geographic location: Saskatoon, Niagara Falls, Toronto

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