Local dancers getting ready for big Disneyland opportunity

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Dance Connections owner Nicole Timtim-Ramirez poses with students attending this summer’s trip. Back row from left: Victoria MacDonald, Shawna McLaughlin, Tiana Beck, Bailey Carlisle, Megan McGouey, and Sidney Gauld. Front row from left: Victoria Hill, Ashley Gauld, Sara Mendiuk, Sidney Langley, Hannah Torrens, and Sarah Noble. Not shown: Shelby Mason, Janae Tulloch, Emma Haun, Kaylee Stadnyk and Hayley Ouellette.
– Stephen Dafoe photos

by Stephen Dafoe

Morinville – Although many students are looking forward to Spring Break vacations in March, a group of 17 students from Dance Connections are setting their vacation sights a little further down the calendar to July. The students, ranging in age from 10 to 19, are currently organizing and fundraising for a trip to California where they will take part in the Summer Dance Classic at Disneyland running July 8 to 13.

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Dance Connections owner and instructor Nicole Timtim-Ramirez said students will participate in Dance the Magic, a one-day workshop taught by Disney Teaching Artists, including choreographers and show directors. “That’s a really exciting experience for these kids, to be with professionals in the dance industry,” she said, adding her students will also be participating and walking in two Disneyland parades. “There are dancers coming from all over the world. That’s really an exciting opportunity as well. Our dancers from Morinville will be meeting, working beside and performing among dancers from all over the world. It’s a good opportunity for our dancers to experience something like this and to represent Morinville, represent Alberta, and represent Canada on an international level.”

Varied experience

With dancers attending the Summer Dance Classic ranging from 10 to 19 years of age, experience is varied. Timtim-Ramirez said some students have been in dance lessons for years, others are new to the studio or even new to dance; however, she is confident the program will be able to work with the variety of experience levels. “This opportunity, provided by Disney, knows that the levels of dancers that are coming are wide,” she explained. “In terms of the walking choreography that we need to do; it is simple but effective because there are hundreds of dancers wearing the same costume walking this parade.”

One student looking forward to attending the dance event is 15-year-old Tiana Beck, a student who has been involved in dance for the past eight years. “It’s a good experience for me and my dance because I want to have a career in it,” Beck said. “It’s a great experience.”

Like many students, Beck began her dance lessons taking ballet at about the age of three. After stepping away from classes for a while, Beck returned to study Jazz and Hip Hop, two styles she says she enjoys equally well. She is hoping the varied experience, including the trip to Disneyland will assist her on her long-term career goals, particularly in learning new techniques in a different atmosphere with new people. “It’s a cool experience because I get to meet some of my mentors that I look up to in dance,” Beck said. “It will be great ot meet them and get technique.”

Beck is not alone in looking forward to the upcoming Summer Dance Classic. Fellow student Sidney Langley is also looking forward to the trip. “I think it will just be great to dance there,” she said, adding participating in the parade and going on the rides are also opportunities she is looking forward to. “[I’m looking forward to learning] other styles of dance at the workshop.”

Like Beck, the 10-year-old dancer has been a student for eight years, starting in ballet at the age of two. “When I was two, three, four and five I was in ballet, but then I started Jazz,” she said. “I just like that style of dancing.”

Fundraising has begun

Regardless of the style of dance each of the 17 dancers favours, they are all dancing in sync on the path to get to California. The cost of the trip is between $2,000 and $3,000 per dancer when airfare, accommodations, registration, and food costs are tallied. To help offset parental and student costs, the summer travellers are set to travel the streets of Morinville Feb. 8 to conduct a bottle drive. They are also planning a silent auction fundraiser for the trip during their annual Dance Recital series set to take place at the Morinville Community Cultural Centre this May.

But Timtim-Ramirez and her students believe the costs and extra fundraising efforts are worth it. “I just think the experience these dancers will experience is priceless,” she said. “It’s providing these dancers experiences they normally would not get the chance to experience. Any support, whether it is financial or moral, we greatly appreciate it. They are really excited to represent the studio and our town.”

Above left: Tiana Beck (left) and Sidney Langley demonstrate some dance moves at Dance Connections Morinville studio.

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