The performers of Rossland-based studio Kootenay Danceworks are finding success on stages across the province. Recent performances at Kiwanis Festival competitions have resulted in seven local dancers receiving invites to the BC Performing Arts Festival being held in Penticton this coming June.
Representing the Kootenays in the provincial competition will be Bethany Johnson, with other local girls, Sabrina Neufeld, Sally Turnbull and Charlotte McKay representing Kamloops due to their invitations via the festival in that region. The adjudicators also saw great potential in Emilia Hofmann, Brynn Streadwick and Ali Ferguson, who have been invited to participate in classes and performances at the provincials in a non-competitive role.
The Performing Arts Festival gathers 450 of the province’s most promising dancers, actors, musicians and poets. In addition to time on-stage, participants learn through workshops and dances, and have the opportunity to meet like-minded individuals from across British Columbia.
In addition to the provincial competition, both Sally Turnbull and Marit Kassels have been accepted to the Alberta Ballet Professional Division Summer School. Young miss Turnbull was also accepted to a 6-week program with Alvin Ailey Summer School in New York.
What is behind so many successes in such a small community? It is a combination of talent and hard-work on behalf of the dancers, and years of professional experience of Kootenay Danceworks instructor Renee Salsiccioli. Ms. Renee left Rossland in her teens, eventually landing at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet where she spent eight years learning and teaching alongside some of Canada’s most respected dancers.
“It is like a lineage,” Ms. Renee explains, “There is a tradition of teaching that was passed down to me that I am able to carry forward here.” The transition was not easy, however, as Ms. Renee had to find a balance between the rigorous professional expectations of the ballet world, and what a community such as Rossland looked for in a dance program.
Ms. Renee comments, “I started out doing movement classes which were more fun, but had to ask myself where my passions lie. In the end I wanted to do a more serious program for dancers open to commitment who want to pursue something in the future with their dance.”
Dance is a wonderful mix of art and physicality; students undertake strength and conditioning, as well as learning the form and movement of jazz, modern dance and ballet, and exploring choreography. Younger students work on their dance between five and seven hours a week, while the older ones upwards of ten hours.
Judging by the great achievements of the Kootenay Danceworks students thus far, their hard work and dedication appears to be paying off.