Young Choreographer Ball

As Fort McMurray got slammed with its first significant snowfall of the season, dancers from across the community gathered at the Suncor Energy Centre for the Performing Arts for the second annual Young Choreographer Ball.

I emceed the inaugural edition of this showcase last year and had attended the dress rehearsal the night before, so I knew that we were in for an amazing set of performances, eleven in total.

The concept of this event is simple:  some of the best dancers are invited to choreograph their own routine and recruit as many dancers as they require.  The audience helps select the winner by filling out a ballot.  They add an appropriate wrinkle to make it completely fair, in that if you are the parent of one of the young choreographers, you can't vote for your own kid.  That pretty much levels off the playing field.  The winner has the honour of presenting their work at the Generation Dance Studio year-end recital in June 2012 titled Fact or Fiction.

Not only is this event about skill development, it's also about raising money for the Talented Angels Dance Scholorship, a fund that is used to help those pursuing dance careers or training outside of Fort McMurray after graduation.  Cassandra Naud was the first recipient, now studying dance and drama in Los Angeles, California.  She's incredible!

Cassandra Naud

Waiting backstage right (on the left side if you're sitting in the audience) while the hundreds of parents, grandparents and supporters poured into our shiny new cultural space in Fort McMurray, our first new space since the Norm Weiss Arts Centre opened at Keyano College in 1990, I felt like I was in a familiar place.  Standing in the wings, waiting for the cue to start, is a great place to be, where focus and anxiety dance, and anticipation soars.

When Melinda, the stage manager, called curtain (the theatrical term for "places"), young performers started to appear in the shadows, buzzing, energized, ready to dazzle.

I'm not much of dance guy, in that I absolutely can't dance, but I love this event. The Young Choreographer Ball is a brilliant snapshot of the breadth of dance talent that is brewing in our community.  There are a number of individual performers who I've seen a number of times over the years, both at this event and at the Shell DanceXplosion at SummersEnd, that really stood out for me.  But there are many more who I noticed for the first time that really punched it out in a way that left me breathless.  They were all ages, from the youngest of the young, to the oldest of the youth.

"Shooting Star was my favourite," said my 8 year old son Ben, after watching the rehearsal.

I wasn't surprised, as their piece, choreographed by the ├╝ber-talented Julien Naud, was like watching a video game come to life.  Ben is a big fan of video games.  I was on the fence between a couple of different presentations.

Ultimately, the lively and appreciative audience decided that their number one choice was Boy With a Coin choreographed by Nicole McMillan.  The hysterical piece called I Am Aldolpho, choreographed by Makayla Farrell, was second, and Be My Baby, choreographed by Kennedy Marshall, was third.

Be My Baby - Kennedy Marshall
Photo by Melinda Stepanowich
3rd Place

I am Adolpho - Makayla Farrell
Photo by Melinda Stepanowich
2nd Place

Boy With a Coin - Nicole McMillan
Photo by Melinda Stepanowich
1st Place

Huge kudos to all the people behind the scenes who made this event possible, especially Michelle Bailey who was the coordinator, and Kim Hurley who does such transformative work with her Generation Dance Studio.  It was a blissful night of dance and a great celebration of our talented youth!

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