The annual Eastside Dance Festival brings together more than 300 students from 11 schools from both the Calgary Board of Education and the Calgary Catholic School District. The event was created eight years ago to foster positive relationships and community among potentially at-risk youth and to provide dance opportunities for underprivileged students in the city of Calgary.
“The Eastside Dance Festival has given me and the dance team the opportunity to perform on professional stages—an opportunity that we might not have received outside of Dance Team,” says CBE student Prianka Kataria.
During a two-day workshop series, students take classes from a variety of professionals at Decidedly Jazz Danceworks and experience what it is like to be a young professional dancer. Throughout the workshop series, students build connections and friendships among themselves while also making connections with working professional artists and companies.
The program is free or low cost for students. Local companies provide students with class instruction as well as bursaries and scholarships to some of the most promising dancers, allowing students to continue pursuing dance outside of school.
“Being a part of the Eastside Dance Festival really helps build relationships with so many people that also love to dance and share the same passion. I have learned so much about dance and performance that I would not have had access to outside of school,” says dance student Tavneet Gill.
“I have learned so much about dance and performance that I would not have had access to outside of school.”
—Tavneet Gill, Eastside Dance Festival participant
From the moment they step into the theatre, students begin working through staging, blocking, technical and dress rehearsals. They then complete the professional process with one final performance at the University of Calgary’s School of Creative and Performing Arts. The experience allows students to be immersed in the culture of fine and performing arts, build an understanding of potential careers within this sector and gain awareness of the potential to continue their dance education in university.
“When I joined dance team, I improved my dance skills and made connections that would last forever,” says Chantelle Anderson-Hailar. “I don’t know what I would do without my team and this opportunity to perform.” ❚
Janelle Ferrara is a dance and phys-ed teacher at Crossing Park School in Calgary.
Follow the Eastside Dance Festival on Instagram @eastsidedanceyyc.
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