Recreation dance club found way to give the kids a season they would remember

The past 12 months have brought plenty of challenges and rewarding experiences for the Estevan Recreational Dance Club, and they still gave the members the chance to showcase their skills.

The club had 160 kids between the ages of three and 20 this year. The number of dancers was down from the 190 they had in 2019-20, but considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Brooke Wilson was pretty happy with the numbers.

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They wrapped up their season in May with a couple of annual highlights: their photo and costume on May 15, and their fifth annual recital May 29 and 30.

“The photo day was pretty emotional for me, just getting to see the kids’ smiling faces again, since when they were getting their photos, they could hand the mask really quickly to a member of their household,” Wilson told the Mercury.

To see their smiles, while in their costumes, and with their hair and makeup, and to see them so happy, meant the world to Wilson.

“They’ve had so much hardship in the past year and a half, and they’ve lost out on so much, and I wanted to really make sure that dance was not something they were going to miss out on,” said Wilson.

The recital was held at the Royal Canadian Legion’s Estevan branch. The dance club set up a mock stage with curtains and a stage floor, and the goal was to make it feel like a proper stage.

“Throughout the weekend, we would cycle our groups in. They would have 15 minutes in a waiting area, where they would rehearse, and then 15 minutes in the performance area,” said Wilson.

The performing arts guidelines allowed for very limited performances, with an audience of under 30, so the club wanted to have parents come watch their kid dance in a small but memorable setting.

“It was really important to me that the parents came and saw all of the hard work that their kids had put into the year, despite all of the challenges that we faced,” said Wilson.

Members of the dancers’ immediate families could attend. Chairs were separated by three metres. And after the dancers performed, the chairs were wiped down for the next group. Groups didn’t come into contact with each other.

For many of the kids, it was their first recital in front of a live audience.

The club also has three graduating students who deserved some form of a send-off: Kendra Cossette, Abi Ross and Paige Wilson.

Wendy Godfrey recorded the recital on video, and the plan is that for those classes that were split into two or three groups, the videos will play alongside each other at the same time, so that it feels like the whole group is dancing together. The video will be available for the dancers’ families.

The 2020-21 season started by applying the finishing touches to the previous season, which ended early due to the arrival of the pandemic. Students filmed their routines.

Then they officially started the new season in October. A few kids didn’t come back due to the pandemic, but the club still had a healthy contingent of dancers.

Practice sessions happened at their new home – the old stone church at the intersection of Third Street and 12th Avenue. It was a perfect, beautiful location for them.

The kids adjusted to all of the hurdles tossed their way, including a mandatory mask mandate in November, and restrictions of no more than eight students in a class at a time.

“That threw us for a bit of a loop, but we split some of our classes into two or even three groups, depending on the size, and they would alternate weeks in the studio. When they weren’t in studio, they would join us live through a Google Meet,” said Wilson. “We would have half of our class on my computer, watching and dancing along with us.”

It was hard for the kids that they couldn’t see all of their friends every week, but they would still interact through technology.

Traditionally they would end their season in March, but due to a late start and the adjustments in practices, they extended the season. 

The parents have also been very patient with all of the changes, Wilson said, and did a good job of adapting and giving the kids the best year possible.

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