Eighteen dancers from Joy’s School of Dance in Innisfail had the opportunity to recently perform for an international audience all while enjoying the sites and sounds of the ‘happiest place on earth’.
Last fall the dancers, who range in age from 11-19 years, auditioned to perform at the Disneyland Resort in California. Their audition was accepted and in February the dance group traveled to Anaheim and were showcased on the Plaza Garden Stage, a performance area inside the Disney Park.
“They were so excited when they found out they had been accepted,” said Joy McIlwain, owner and dance instructor of the dance studio, adding that this is the fourth trip to Disneyland that she has taken dancers on. “For me I think it’s so important to show my dancers what they can do and where dance can take them. I never want the kids to feel that just because we live in a small town, they can’t do certain things.”
The dancers performed two half hour shows in Disneyland where they showcased a variety of dance-types including jazz, tap, hip hop, lyrical and acro.
“I think that if the kids are raising money and they are going down to do a dance trip, it needs to not just be a family holiday. We try to fit in as much dance-wise as we can,” she said. “The kids did six routines at the Showstopper dance competition and for Disney we did two shows as well as a workshop at Disney.”
Bailey Simpson, 15, was one of the dancers on the trip and it was the second time she had gone with the studio to Disneyland.
“Performing at Disney was really fun and we had a pretty good crowd. And we also did well at the competition. It was fun to see the atmosphere of the competition, it is very different than what we have here. Ours are much more structured and they have a lot of fun with theirs,” said Simpson. “I really enjoyed all of it. It was a really fun time.”
One of the highlights of the trip was being able to take classes at one of the most well known studios in the dance profession – the Edge Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles.
“It’s one of the places in the States where everyone goes. For them to go do classes there – they are from small town Alberta, but that doesn’t limit what the possibilities are out there for them,” said McIlwain. “They were really excited to be able to go and say that they have danced there. It’s people that they have looked up to and they got to take a class with them. At the studio they have pictures of the different teachers that teach there and it says who they have worked with in the industry.”
Simpson said it was fun to see the different styles of dance that are taught at the studio.
“We don’t have all the same styles here so it was really great to see and it was fun to take the classes.”
Meanwhile, as part of the Disney Performing Art program, dance groups, choirs, ensembles and marching bands from around the world have an opportunity to apply to perform each year at both the Disneyland and the Walt Disney World resorts. Once selected, they are given the opportunity to perform at the resort for an international audience of theme park guests. Millions of performers have graced the stages of the Disney Parks in the more than 25-year history of the program.