Competitive dance straddles line between art and sport

While dance is often seen as an art form, there is a competitive side to it as well.

GRACEFUL ATHLETES – Students of contemporary dance at Dancer’s Edge Studio in Lacombe pose after completing a routine during a class.

GRACEFUL ATHLETES – Students of contemporary dance at Dancer’s Edge Studio in Lacombe pose after completing a routine during a class.

While dance is often seen as an art form, there is a competitive side to it as well.

Kelly Oehlerking, a dancer at Dancer’s Edge Studio in Lacombe, has been dancing since she was about five and has been competing for the past six years. At a recent competition in Olds, she received four gold medals, two silvers and one bronze. Oehlerking said she decided to start competing in order get more out of her dancing.

“I wanted to take it more seriously,” said Oehlerking. “The training is more serious (when competing) and you practice more often.”

Heather Buelow, owner and head instructor at Dancer’s Edge, agreed with her student.

“We are allowed to push the competitive dancers more,” said Buelow. She added that desire to push oneself is a trait she sees a lot in her competitive dancers.

Competing has also made Oehlerking a better dancer, she said.

“You just learn so much,” said Oehlerking. She added that, regardless of whether she does well or poorly at a competition, she also tries to work harder and do better next time.

Dancer’s Edge is currently in the middle of its competition season. Dancers from the studio have already participated in one competition in Olds and are currently at another competition in Sherwood Park which runs from April 24 – 28.

The third competition planned for the season is the Shy-Ann Dance Festival in Banff from May 1 – 4.

Top dances will also move on to the Grand Championships in June.

Buelow said that about 300 students in 104 dances competed in the Olds competition. She said the studio had seven dances in the dance-off and the several of them ended up with top mark in their categories.

Instructors from Dancer’s Edge were recognized at the competition as well, said Buelow. She said that she received the second top choreography award for her senior tap number and it was the studio’s ballet instructor, Tania Strader, who took top choreography award for her ballet number.

This is the 10th season Dancer’s Edge has been competing, said Buelow.

She added that the school has grown a lot since its first season with only three dances and today has no problem staying competitive with schools its size and can even keep up with larger studios that have a bigger pool of dancers to draw from.

“We definitely hold our own,” said Buelow.

Between the studio in Lacombe and the one in Blackfalds, Dancer’s Edge has about 700 students and just under half of them compete, said Buelow.

She also said that most dancers start competing between the ages of 10 and 11 but most of her competitors are between the ages of 10-13.

At the more senior levels, there are not as many competitors, but the competition is more serious, added Buelow.

A lot of preparation goes into getting dancers ready for the spring competition. Buelow said that students start dancing in September and work on choreography generally starts between November and December.

To hone both the techniques and choreography of their dances, students attend a separate class for each every week.

Competitive dancers will dance anywhere between two and over 10 hours a week to prepare for competitions, added Buelow.

“My senior dancers dance three to four hours a night a few times a week.”

Some might argue that dance is an art form and not a sport, but Oehlerking would disagree.

She said she also plays ringette and sees a lot of similarities between the competitions of the two sports.

“Competition-wise they are both the same,” said Oehlerking. “And as for the workout, it’s just as strong.”

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