With only four hours until the show they had been working on for the past semester and only one chance to get it right, dancers, choreographers and organizers buzzed around the Dalhousie Arts Centre on Sunday. Nervous laughs came from the bright red lips of three girls with hair sprayed stiff in uniform ballerina buns. They waved and said good luck to a blonde in a blue sequined dress who ran past them to get to the stage in time to run her solo for the last time without an audience
This was the dress rehearsal for Elevate: Dalhousie Dance Society (DalDance)’s annual recital.
“It’s Christmas 2.0 for us here at the society, with Halloween because we get to dress up,” said DalDance president, Katlyn Pettipas. Show day is what DalDance’s entire year builds up to.
“The recital was and still is my child. I love it.”
Strength and stability on stage
Maeghan Taverner, showcase coordinator and next years DalDance president , was in 13 dances for last year’s show. For her, the stage represents comfort.
Dance has been her only constant in the midst of an ever-changing upbringing.
Her family moves often to accommodate her father’s work as a specialized computer engineer.
She’s lived all over the world, from Belgium to England to Ontario, but everywhere she’s been, she’s had dance.
“Whether it was bullying or being the new kid or whatever, I could always go to the dance studio and just be able to completely let go and not worry about anything else that was happening. It’s always been a safe space for me. I love it so much.”
Phil Roy, ex-DalDance president and experienced salsa dancer and choreographer, also uses dance as a way of coping and expression.
“It’s freedom,” he said. “Dance can be anything you need it to be.”
Roy started dancing at 15 after the basketball team he played for in high school was cut for budgeting reasons. Him and his girlfriend at the time tried salsa to fill his spare time because it was the cheapest of the ballroom dance lessons. 13 years later, he’s never wavered from this favourite style.
As for the performance aspect, “it’s a high and I love the attention,” he said. “Not gonna lie about that. I love being on that stage. I’m living up there.”
When he appeared on stage later that night, swaying his hips to a techno version of “Mi Gente” by J Balvin and Willy William, remixed with a Sean Paul classic, it wasn’t hard to tell. His charisma was on show.
For others, like first year Maya Gurler, Elevate was her first ever dance recital. She joined DalDance to get involved on campus and initially found she was challenged by more than just the choreography.
“You see yourself and you end up comparing yourself to other performers and that can be a little challenging,” she says, but it pushed her to “just feel the music and go for it.”
Now she’s hooked.
“I just find dance very empowering.”
DalDance’s curtain call
Sunday evening, half an hour before the show, people made their way up the stairs of the Art Centre excitedly clutching bouquets of red roses and chatting about the person they were there to see.
At 7 p.m., the lights went down and the mustard-yellow curtain of the Cohen stage lifted.
Throughout the show, the passion from the stage made its way into the audience. From the hip-hop choreography that had the audience cheering all the way through, to the emotional contemporary pieces, to the feel-good musical theatre numbers, applause erupted after every blackout.
“The best part was probably the audience’s reaction to every number because backstage, as soon as the audience started picking up, everybody would get so excited,” said Taverner after the show.
“It felt absolutely spectacular.”