Selected to represent Team Canada Dance from Surrey (from left to right). Top row: Madison Thomas, 16, Jorden Hall, 18, Ryan Van Andel, 17, Taryn Mulvihill, 15, Jayda Bhinder, 14. Bottom row: Angelina Pratap, 14, Ahria McNichol, 10. (Joti Pratap/Submitted photo)

Seven girls from Surrey are representing Canada at World Dance Championships

Despite a rigorous training schedule, the dancers still seek ‘athlete’ recognition

Many of them train for over twenty hours per week, and most of them have been dancing since they were toddlers.

However, the individuals that represent Team Canada Dance are still seeking athletic recognition.

From October 17-21st, the IDO World Hip-Hop, Electric Boogie and Break Dance Championships are taking place in Copenhagen-Bronby, Denmark. Team Canada Dance is sending 60 athletes across the three categories of children, juniors, and adults.

Out of the 60 athletes representing Canada, seven of them are from Surrey.

Angelina Pratap, 14, Ahria McNichol, 10, Jayda Bhinder, 14, Taryn Mulvihill, 15, Madison Thomas, 16, Jorden Hall, 18, and Ryan Van Andel, 17, are all hoping to help Canada reach the podium.

Auditions are held all across Western Canada in January, with training and choreographing for the competition starting in June.

SEE ALSO: Surrey dancer headed to Portugal for prestigious ballet competition

In preparation for the championships, the dancers spend countless hours preparing for the five-day competition.

“My daughter is doing over twenty hours of training a week,” said Angelina Pratap’s mother, Joti Pratap. “These kids are very dedicated. They basically give up their entire summers to train for this competition.”

Pratap’s daughter has been dancing since she was three-years-old. According to Pratap and head coach Paul Otterbein, that’s not uncommon for most of the young dancers.

“Most of these kids start out when they’re toddlers,” said Pratap. “They want to become choreographers and dance teachers when they grow up.”

Team Canada Dance seeks athletic recognition

When Team Canada Dance sends their competitors to the IDO World Dance Championships, they will be competing against 65 other countries from around the world.

Many of those countries have the support of the National Olympic Committees.

Canada, however, does not.

Most of the European competitors are recognized by their National Olympic Committees, and it gives them an added bonus in the competition.

Dancers in countries who are recognized often receive government grants, scholarships, paid health insurance and more. European countries that are recognized by National Olympic Committees in Europe also receive money grants if they finish in a medal position by the end of the tournament.

Meanwhile, Canadian dancers are left to do their own fundraising to attend these events, on top of training nearly seven days per week.

“Each one has had to fundraise on their own,” Pratap said.

Locally, the athletes have completed pub fundraisers, Krispy Kreme doughnut fundraisers, and door-to-door fundraising.

Aside from raising money, the main goal of Team Canada Dance is to receive athletic recognition from the government.

“We’re trying to make it known that these kids are athletes too,” said Pratap. “They put in just as much work as athletes in other sports, and they train at the same level as other athletes.”

Team Canada Dance head coach Paul Otterbein isn’t optimistic about receiving any funding.

“I honestly don’t think it will change,” said Otterbein.

“In Canada, dance has never been recognized as a sport. It’s always been considered as an art instead.”

“Hockey is obviously the dominant sport in Canada, and funding usually goes to hockey and other team sports.”

However, Otterbein isn’t giving up hope on athlete recognition for his team.

“People need to raise their voices,” he said. “If enough people speak up about it, maybe people will realize that dancers are athletes too.”

Canada becoming a dance powerhouse

Something that might pique the interest of the Canadian Olympic Committee is the recent success that Team Canada Dance has had in the genre’s of hip-hop and break dance.

“Canada is now is one of the top superpowers in the word for hip-hop,” Otterbein said. “Japan, Canada, New Zealand and the United States are the top-four countries.

“Hopefully, our government will recognize that.”

All of the hard work that Canadian dancers have poured into this competition has paid off in recent years.

Last year in Poland, Canada enjoyed a top-ten finish. They were second overall when they competed in Italy in 2015, and fourth overall in Germany the year before.

For the different teams, months of training culminates in just a few minutes.

“It’s very nerve-racking,” said Otterbein. “It’s a best-on-best competition, and the dancers only have a maximum of three minutes to perform.”

What makes the event even more nerve-racking is that the competition is held in a sudden-death format. After the teams compete in preliminaries, the dancers then go on to compete in quarterfinals, semifinals, and finals.

Otterbein has been the team’s head coach and choreographer since 2014, and he has 15 years of experience coaching competitive dance.

He knows that the girls representing Surrey at this tournament are in good hands when they train at the Street Kings Academy in Surrey.

“Surrey just has a very strong hip-hop culture,” he said. “The studios they come from are very good. The dancers are well-trained and well-choreographed. They continue to churn out great talent.

The girls are now hoping that they can help bring international glory to Canada.

“It’s like the Olympics,” said Pratap. “There’s a podium ceremony at the end where the flags are raised and the anthems are played. “It’s such a proud moment for them to represent Canada.”

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