Cowichan dancer heads to World Dance Championships

Mill Bay dancer Olivia Young is going to Reisa, Germany, this weekend, to compete in the World Dance Championships: the Olympics of dance.

Olivia, 15, dances with the Steps Ahead studio in Mill Bay, and says studio owner Lorraine Blake was instrumental in pointing her towards a place on the team.

“Lorraine Blake sent mom [Shari] an email about a tap [dance] team for Team Canada. I went and auditioned for it in June or July and I made it on, but then that team got cancelled because there weren’t enough elite tap dancers.

“But the lady who runs Team Canada looked at my resume and sent it to another lady who was on So You Think You Can Dance Canada. She asked me to audition for her and I did and I got on [another] team, Team Canada ShowDance West, which is contemporary modern.”

Olivia then clarified that showdance covers a lot of ground.

“It can be anything but it has to have a story to it,” she said, adding that showdance is becoming really popular in the last few years.

“It’s fun to watch and to perform. There’s so much to showdance [for an audience]. They’re more intrigued by it.”

Showdance is divided into adults, juniors, and children, and Olivia is rehearsing with the junior team, which is 22 dancers strong.

“We go over to Langley every weekend to practise from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.” she said.

The dancers come from across western Canada and that means big time travel for some of them. Young is one of the lucky ones who lives relatively close to the rehearsal centre.

“But, the atmosphere [of the dance rehearsals] is great. We’ve made a pretty good family in the 11 weeks we’ve been together. We’ve gotten really close.”

Shari then said it is “a great chance for dancers from different studios to meet other dancers. It can sometimes get a bit rigid in competitions. No one talks to anyone else. But here the barriers are down.”

Olivia agreed.

“I had competed against one of the girls [who is now in rehearsal with her]. I would get to say, ‘Oh, good job on your solo’ or something like that. But I never knew who she was. Then I got to Team Canada and made the connection. It’s cool.”

Olivia and her mom are heading out this weekend for 16 days overseas.

The competition itself is from Nov. 20-25. But an opportunity to spend time in Europe doesn’t happen every day so, “Mom and I are staying an extra week. We’re going to Prague, Berlin, and Paris as well. That will be fun.”

Reisa is located near beautiful Dresden, in eastern Germany.

Olivia does not speak any German but is hopeful that plenty of the folks she meets will speak at least some English.

To get ready for the event, she has been involved in fundraising, finding sponsors to help fund the trip.

Team Canada Dance National Director Bonnie Dyer says that Canada’s success in all dance disciplines at the World Championships is mainly due to the high standard of training that local studios offer.

The Canadian team’s repeated success is even more impressive considering Canada does not provide any financial assistance to these elite athletes, whereas most European countries provide extensive support, including grants, scholarships, health insurance, workshops, and physiotherapy. Team Canada Dance athletes must raise their own funds to train and attend the World Championships.

Olivia and Shari offered thanks to everyone who has helped them achieve this dream with donations.

The International Dance Organization has more than 250,000 member dancers from every continent. The World Championship format offers only one gold, silver and bronze medal presented on the podium while the World Champion’s National Anthem is played as the top three medalists’ flags are raised.

Team Canada ShowDance West is led by accomplished head choreographer, Danielle Gardner.

Drawing on her experience as a finalist on So You Think You Can Dance Canada, and film appearances on CBC’s Motive and the iconic dance film Centre Stage, the former world champion dancer knows exactly what it takes to motivate, guide and strengthen all the Team Canada competitors to draw out their best qualities and develop their full potential as Canada’s finest dancers.

Now in her fifth year as head choreographer, Danielle is honoured to be part of Team Canada ShowDance West’s 2017 journey to the championships in Germany.

“Being offered the opportunity to bring together amazing dancers from all over Western Canada, who have not danced together, to form them into a team, and then to watch them proudly representing Canada on the World Stage is indeed a treasured gift,” she says.

More information on Team Canada Dance can be found at www.teamcanadadance.com.

The Team Canada group have some fun posing for a picture as they prepare to head out to the World Championships in Germany. (Submitted)
Olivia Young has danced in modern numbers such as Battle Within with Steps Ahead in Mill Bay. (Citizen file)
Olivia Young, back row, right, is usually a tap dancer but her versatility has earned her a place on Team Canada. (Citizen file)
Mill Bay’s Olivia Young is heading to Germany this weekend for the World Dance Championships. (Submitted)
Mill Bay’s Olivia Young is heading to Germany this weekend for the World Dance Championships. (Submitted)

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