Penticton dance studio sends 14 to provincial competition

That doubled the number of dancers the studio sends to the competition in a typical year

Emma Hopley, 15, took first place in the intermediate stage dance competition. Submitted photo

A Penticton dance studio has something to celebrate, with 14 of its dancers representing the city in a provincial dance competition late last month.

Okanagan Dance Studios owner/director Traci Bourne says typically around half that number of dancers from the studio make it to the B.C. Festival of the Arts, which holds competitions for the three styles of dance — stage, classical and modern — along with singing, speech arts and music.

“It’s really hard to compete against, especially the girls from the coast,” Bourne said. “A lot of them leave school at noon to start dancing like a crazy amount of hours. So, it’s really hard to compete up against those kids. I think the Okanagan showed a lot of talent.”

Among the dancers that made it to the competition, Emma Hopley, 15, won the stage dance competition for the intermediate age group, while her twin sister, Nicola, was a runner-up for the intermediate modern dance competition.

Beyond those two, three dancers were honourable mentions, including Abby Sherwood, 17, who performed in the modern dance competition for the senior age group. Sophia McNolty, 16, was an honourable mention for the intermediate modern, while Brianna Godsoe, 14, made honourable mention for intermediate stage.

A massive accomplishment for the dancers, Bourne says it’s “a huge honour” to work with them to get to that point in competitive dance.

“But also, it proves that hard work does pay off,” she said. “It’s definitely rewarding for the teachers, as well.”

The studio had no placements in classical dance or in the junior age group.

While hundreds of youth compete in the festival, which ran from May 31 to June 1 in Kamloops, Bourne said 18 to 25 typically compete in each dance category per age group.

Just to get into the competition alone takes months of preparations, according to Bourne, who said the girls will each begin starting in September the year before the competition.

“Slowly, we start to compete them after Christmas, and then it all winds up with the provincial festival at the end of May,” Bourne said. “They’ve been working on these for 10 months, now.”

And through those 10 months of preparations, Bourne said the girls head to the studio after school, spending about 10 to 14 hours per week in dance classes and spending weekends working on solo choreography and rehearsals.

“It takes a lot of hard work and a lot of time to get to that level,” she said, noting that there won’t be much time for relaxing.

“We’re getting ready for our big year-end show for the whole studio. Every member of the studio will be performing in that, and that’s next weekend. And then after that, the sort of elite girls will start to do their summer training.”

That will take the dancers to Vancouver, or even as far east as Winnipeg.

“And then they start all over again in September.”