Five young Peninsula dancers shared in the glory at a prestigious competition in Poland early in December.
They were competing for Team Canada in the International Dance Organization World Modern and Contemporary Championships (Dec. 1-4) and World Ballet and Jazz Championships (Dec. 5-8), held in Rawa, near Warsaw.
Elgin Park Secondary student Paige Diggle, 16 – who dances at Vancouver’s Pacific Dance Arts studio – won the gold medal in the adult classical ballet solo category, edging out top dancers from Italy and Poland who won silver and bronze.
Earl Marriott Secondary student Juliane Kealy, 14 – who dances at White Rock’s Spiral Dance studio – was a member of Canada’s gold medal-winning Junior Ballet Team as well as the silver medal-winning Junior Jazz Team.
She also competed with the Junior Modern/Contemporary Team (which placed 10th overall), and in Modern/Contemporary Duo (which placed 10th out of 42 overall).
Kealy’s fellow Marriott/Spiral dancers Hailey Poole, 15, and Reggie Quintana, 14, were also on the Junior Jazz Team and the Junior Modern Team, with Quintana also placing high in the field of competitors for jazz and contemporary male solos, while Angel Freed, 17, also at Marriott and Spiral, was a member of the Adult Contemporary Team, which posted a strong fifth place in the category.
All of the local dancers auditioned to be part of Team Canada, and trained for the championships at Affinity Dance in Port Kells, with owner Allison Law, who was also choreographer and team leader.
Diggle – who turned 16 only a couple of weeks before the championships – told Peace Arch News her award-winning performance was classical variations on Satanella (based on a ballet originally created by the legendary Marius Petipa in 1848), which has been a signature piece for her.
“I’ve been training in these variations for two years,” she said. “This (competition) was my big finale for this piece, which is very challenging for a dancer my age.”
Dance has been part of her life for as long as she can remember she said, although she started getting really serious about competitive dancing from the age of 12.
“My parents put me in it when I was young to see whether I’d like it – I’ve had amazing teachers who’ve inspired me and brought to life my passion and creativity,” she said.
Diggle said her interest in ballet is matched by her passion for contemporary dance (in which she also competed in the championships), and she’d like to continue to work toward a professional dance career.
“Ideally, my goal in life and dance is to do both ballet and contemporary – it feels good and, hopefully, I’ll get opportunities to pursue that.
“(For this competition) it was so much fun to be with kids from the community I’ve known for many years,” she added, noting that the international nature of the competition also broadened her experience of dance.
“It was so inspiring and humbling to see all these different styles and different energies,” she said. “I think the other dancers and coaches inspired me. To see all these amazing European dancers in warm-ups and practices… it was beautiful to watch everyone work.”
Diggle said she also enjoyed the opportunity to travel into Warsaw twice during the competition to take in the culture, art and architecture of the city.
“It was very old and very classical – so different from what we have here,” she said.
Her comments were echoed by Kealy, who managed to combine the week of the championships with an earlier two weeks of vacation, including visits to Warsaw and Krakow.
“It’s a really beautiful country and I loved seeing the history of it,” Kealy said, adding that, like Diggle, she was also inspired by the experience of sharing dance with so many other students at the championships – and is “definitely considering a professional career in it.”
Kealy said she found it to be a bonding experience with all of her Team Canada teammates from Jazz, Contemporary, and Ballet as they worked together to achieve success.
“Some were from the Island, some were from Abbotsford and others from around the Lower Mainland,” she added.
“We started practising in June and on the weekends in the fall. It was a lot of hard work – but also a lot of fun.”