Building a better dance community

It's pretty rare to leave the Yukon in search of gold, but that's exactly what a group of young dancers did this past weekend. That's where you need to go if your looking for High Gold.

It’s pretty rare to leave the Yukon in search of gold, but that’s exactly what a group of young dancers did this past weekend.

That’s where you need to go if your looking for High Gold.

The Extremely Moving Youth dance company took home a number of awards last week at a dance festival in Surrey, BC.

The 36 dancers won 15 High Gold, 20 Gold and two High Silver.

“High Gold”- for those not versed in the intricacies of the dance festival world – is first place. Gold is second, High Silver third, and on down the line past Silver, High Bronze and Bronze.

On top of that, the company received two awards for most outstanding performance, five choreography awards and four most promising awards.

There were a lot of awards being thrown around. But, of the 20 other schools and over 200 students that attended – Extremely Moving took home more than their fair share.

But it wasn’t always that way.

When Andrea Simpson-Fowler grew up in Whitehorse, there was nowhere for her to seriously train and study dance.

At 15 she was forced to head south, leaving behind her friends and family to pursue her interest in dance.

Simpson-Fowler has since returned home to the North and started Leaping Feats, a dance school located in Riverdale.

With more than 500 students, Leaping Feats acts as a sort of farm team for Extremely Moving, which holds fairly competitive auditions every June to fill its 36 spots.

Extremely Moving, now in its 12th year, is a nonprofit organization created to give kids a chance to seriously train and hopefully move on to study dance at the postsecondary level, at university or in a conservatory.

“So the reason the program exists is to insure that dancers have the opportunity to train intensively in Whitehorse,” said Simpson-Fowler.

“They don’t have to leave. They can stay here and live with their families and still have those kinds of opportunities.”

But it’s also a lot of work.

The students study various styles – ballet, jazz, contemporary and hip-hop – and train for two hours every day after school.

The kids have to sign a contract, aren’t allowed to participate in school sports, and have to follow strict commitments and attendance policies.

It was a bit of a fight to get families to commit to 10 hours of training each week, said Simpson-Fowler, whose daughter Grace is in the program.

“A lot of people move here to get away from the rat race, right? They don’t want to over-program their kids.”

Now young Yukon dancers are able to train seriously at home.

The one remaining problem is that there are no festivals in the North.

Festivals are important for a young dancer’s career.

Beyond offering the experience of competition, the festivals are also adjudicated by a group of dance experts.

These adjudicators offer comments and suggestions for each dancer. They can often be tough, but that’s what students need to improve.

Extremely moving used to go to a festival in Grand Prairie, said Simpson-Fowler.

“But we kind of grew out of Grand Prairie and we wanted to go to one that had a higher calibre.”

Vancouver is known for its high level of dance – maybe a little too high for the Yukon dancers, who are relatively inexperienced compared to their competitive peers down south.

But nearby Surrey, BC seemed like it might be doable.

“Definitely the calibre was higher, but we’ve been working really hard the past two years, we’ve had some tremendous guest instructors come up and work with the kids, so they held their own,” said Simpson-Fowler.

“They did really, really well.”

Especially considering that Extremely Moving goes to festivals once every other year. Only 12 of the 36 girls had ever been to a festival before.

They’d like to go every year, but it’s difficult to find the money it takes to send a dance school as far as Surrey.

It cost around $50,000 to get the 36 kids and 10 chaperones down to last weekend’s festival.

It wasn’t just they’re dance skills that set Yukon’s dancers apart from the crowd.

Extremely Moving puts a big emphasis on contributing to their community as well as learning how to choreograph, program manage and teach.

Some of the students work as student teachers and some of the former graduates are starting to come home, to teach and help out the company.

“We do all of these things so that they can help build the community here that I grew up in, which I hated. We’re really on a mission to make it cool.”

If you’d like to see what makes a High Gold dance, Leaping Feats will be holding its Dancing Through Life show at the arts centre on May 26 and 27.

Contact Chris Oke at

chriso@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Team Togo member Katie Moen sits in a sled behind a snowmobile for the ride from the airport to Chief Zzeh Gittlit School. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Coming together: How Old Crow became one of the first communities in the world to be fully vaccinated

Team Togo and Team Balto assembled with a mission to not waste a single dose of vaccine

Main Street in Whitehorse on May 4. If council moves forward with bylaw changes, eating and drinking establishments could set up pop-up patios in on-street parking spaces. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Patios may be popping up in Whitehorse this summer

City considers program for downtown restaurants and bars

The Yukon Coroner's Service has confirmed the death of a skateboarder found injured on Hamilton Boulevard on May 2. Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News
Whitehorse man dies in skateboarding accident

Coroner urges the use of helmets, protective gear, while skateboarding.

The new Yukon Liberal caucus poses for a photo during the swearing-in ceremony held on May 3. (Yukon Government/Submitted)
Liberal cabinet sworn in at legislature before house resumes on May 11

Newly elected MLA Jeremy Harper has been nominated as speaker.

The Yukon Wildlife Preserve’s baby bison, born April 22, mingles with the herd on April 29. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Yukon Wildlife Preserves welcomes two bison calves

A bison calf was the first 2021 baby born at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve

A map provided by the Yukon government shows the location of unpermitted logging leading to a $2,500 fine. (Courtesy/Yukon government)
Man fined $2,500 for felling trees near Beaver Creek

The incident was investigated by natural resource officers and brought to court.

The site of the Old Crow solar project photographed on Feb. 20. The Vuntut Gwitchin solar project was planned for completion last summer, but delays related to the COVID-19 pandemic pushed it back. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Old Crow is switching to solar

The first phase of the community’s solar array is already generating power.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
One new case of COVID-19 in the Yukon

Case number 82 is the territory’s only active case

Flood and fire risk and potential were discussed April 29. Yukoners were told to be prepared in the event of either a flood or a fire. Submitted Photo/B.C. Wildfire Service
Yukoners told to be prepared for floods and wildland fire season

Floods and fire personelle spoke to the current risks of both weather events in the coming months.

From left to right, Pascale Marceau and Eva Capozzola departed for Kluane National Park on April 12. The duo is the first all-woman expedition to summit Mt. Lucania. (Michael Schmidt/Icefield Discovery)
First all-woman team summits Mt. Lucania

“You have gifted us with a magical journey that we will forever treasure.”

Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)
City news, briefly

Whitehorse goings-on for the week of April 26

The Yukon Department of Education in Whitehorse on Dec. 22, 2020. The department has announced new dates for the 2021/2022 school year. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
Yukon school dates set for 2021/22

The schedule shows classes starting on Aug. 23, 2021 for all Whitehorse schools and in some communities.

Most Read