Young performers of the Okanagan are being called upon to enter the Penticton Kiwanis Music, Dance and Speech Arts Festival, as registration for the 90th season opened up on Dec. 1.
Members of the Okanagan Dance Studios didn’t waste time contemplating, with many performers practicing their routines well before the launch of registration.
“We all have to work together and think of our group as one dancer so that we are all together,” said 13-year-old Kiera Epp, who’s been competing in the festival as a member of the Okanagan Dance Studios since she was seven. “We don’t think of it as a competition between the dancers and the group, we try to think of just each other as one big group and we’re just trying to do our best.”
Between March 2 to April 22, the Kiwanis festival will be holding numerous competitions in the disciplines of singing, piano, guitar, dramatic speech and dance, with categories for both groups and individuals.
“The Festival, which is proudly celebrating it’s 90th Anniversary, is one of the longest running music festivals in B.C.,” said festival secretary Lorna Bull.
“The Kiwanis Festival is a really positive environment,” Epp said. “We really like watching each other, cheering each other on as well as performing together. We are just really close; we kind of feel like a family almost. We see each other every week and we practice so hard together. Most of us have been dancing with each other since we were quite little so we have a really good bond and we can trust each other.”
Epp said she loves dance as an artistic expression because it gives performers the ability to communicate vibrantly without any dialogue.
“It’s a really interesting thing to think about, being able to portray a story without saying anything.”
Among the several categories Epp will be entering, she’s most focused on delivering a strong performance in ballet.
“Ballet is kind of the foundation for all other dances,” she said. “I feel like if you do really well in ballet, that’s saying a lot about who you are as a dancer and your potential.”
To make sure her routines are delivered flawlessly, Epp has already been rehearsing regularly for months.
“We really need to go through the steps and make sure that we’re all staying on the right time and we’re all really clean and very sure of the choreography so that we’re not at all scared or confused about going on stage.”
Beyond the team members who will be seen under the spotlight, there are many choreographers working behind the scenes. Epp credits her strong performing abilities to her instructor Traci Bourne.
“I love that she can joke around sometimes but she knows when we need to be really focused and work really hard.”
Also lending critical contributions towards Epp’s Kiwanis performances are her parents.
“My parents are really supportive of me doing dance and that helps a lot,” she said. “They drive me to all of my classes and competitions and practices. My mom helps me practice at home outside of class too. I definitely am really appreciative of all the work they’re doing.”
All performances receive constructive feedback after being evaluated by professional adjudicators. Selected winners of the music and dance categories will be invited back to perform as part of the Highlights Concerts. Some solo winners, as chosen by adjudicators, will advance to the Performing Arts BC Provincial Festival in Fort St. John next May.
To learn more about registration, visit the Kiwanis website at pkmf.org.