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Dance Inspirations preparing to hit the stage for 61st annual competition

Annual Moose Jaw Festival of Dance event returns after two years away due to pandemic
Festival of Dance preview
Moose Jaw Festival of Dance is in the midst of final preparations for the 61st Dance Inspirations competition beginning Thursday.

It’s been a long time coming for the Moose Jaw Festival of Dance and the annual Dance Inspirations competition, but the time for their return to the stage is almost here.

After missing the past two years due to the pandemic, Dance Inspirations will be back under the lights beginning Thursday at Peacock’s Centennial Auditorium, and it promises to be another busy, fun and educational experience for everyone involved in the popular annual event.

“It’s long overdue and we’re really looking forward to it,” said Tania Holzer-Maneso with Dance Inspirations. “We have a few volunteer spots left to fill, but we’re almost there and people have been really generous with their time, we really appreciate it. Other than that, everything is lined up and ready to go, registrations are in and it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

A total of seven studios from Alberta and Saskatchewan will be on stage throughout the event, featuring a total of 326 dancers. Action begins Thursday, May 5 and runs through Saturday, May 7 before the best-of-the-best Dance Challenge hits the stage on Sunday, May 8.

Given the format and style of the event, the major focus for competitors will not only be on straight-up winning, but also having a chance to learn from the all-star line-up of adjudicators the Festival of Dance brings in each year.

“We have fantastic adjudicators, we always try to bring in the best of the best, since as part of our mandate we’re not just a competition, we’re also here to help provide ongoing education,” Holzer-Maneso said, adding that adjudicators even hold special on-stage rundowns after each session to offer further tips and advice to performers.

“It's almost a mini-workshop. The adjudicators are on the stage with the participants and they’ll choose something they’ve noticed that could be improved on, something that was done really well, or how to take this one type of thing to the next level… That’s one of the things I really love about Festival, that aspect of it, the dancers getting to interact with these professionals.”

So who will the youngsters be learning from?

There’s Senyo Akakpo, a professional dancer and hip-hop specialist who has been a part of the dance industry for 10 years, having worked with groups like Feist and the Arkells as well as CFL teams and the Pan Am Games.

And Lisa Stevens, an Emmy-nominated and award-winning director and choreographer who has an incredible list of Broadway and West End credits on her resume in addition to having worked on the 2010 Winter Olympics Victory Ceremonies. As a performer, Stevens has even taken the stage in front of Queen Elizabeth at the Palace Theatre in England.

And Stephana Arnold, who performed for the National Ballet of Canada and Les Grands Ballet Canadiens de Montreal, working in the principal and soloist roles for some of the most popular and dynamic shows staged by the two major troupes. She’s since become an award-winning choreographer for several elite dance conservatories in B.C. and continues to teach on a regular basis.

Of course, the Festival is still a competition, and there will be plenty up for grabs. Performers will be seeking a piece of the thousands upon thousands of dollars in scholarships throughout the week, including the Dance Challenge senior first-place prize of $1,000 and junior prize of $700.

Holzer-Maneso made special mention of Fifth Avenue Jewellers and Sahara Spa for their sponsorship efforts, including a major donation in support of the Challenge.

The main competition features sessions all day from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. The top performers from the week will take part in Sunday’s Dance Challenge, which takes place at 2 p.m. 

Weekend passes are $40 each and include all sessions except the Dance Challenge. Session passes are $8, day passes are $15. Tickets for the Dance Challenge are $15 each and are assigned seating, so be sure to pick them up in advance if possible.

For plenty more information on Dance Inspirations, including much more on the adjudicators, a look at the event syllabus and more, be sure to visit their website at www.danceinspirations.ca.