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It’s all about dance – from Crowsnest Pass to Poland

Friday, 05 January 2018. Posted in Shootin' the Breeze

It’s all about dance – from Crowsnest Pass to Poland
Tori Wakaluk in her role as the Nutcracker last month.   Photo by Shannon Robison

It’s all about dance – from Crowsnest Pass to Poland

By Georgia Dale

With Christmas and a whirlwind of action throughout autumn and early winter behind her, Tori Wakaluk has a few days to recharge before she recommences her usual lightning-paced schedule.

After practising non-stop since August for two major dance events, 17-year-old Tori says her body could use a bit of a break — not that she is complaining.

Tori, as a member of Team Canada West, competed in the International Dance Organization’s World Ballet, Jazz and Modern/Contemporary Championships, held in Poland in early December.

Then she hurried back to star in a Lethbridge production of The Nutcracker ballet that opened Dec. 15.

For her competitions in Poland, Tori danced to eight compositions with various members of her team, comprised of 24 dancers from all over Western Canada.

Five of these dances earned her a place on the podium, with first place in small jazz group (out of 25), third place in jazz formation (out of 17), ballet formation (out of  five), small contemporary group (out of 34) and small pointe group (out of 10).

While the competition was intense, Team Canada West held its own competing against 30 teams from around the world — all of them “amazing,” Tori says.

One of the strongest competitors was the South African team, who shared spots on the podium with Canada in almost every competition. But Tori was heartened by the fact that South Africa not only practises year-round but also has professional dancers on its roster.

Other teams that stood out for Tori included the Serbian and United States teams, which both provided some fierce, though friendly, competition. In fact, Tori says that everyone her team encountered was very welcoming and friendly, with Canadians having the distinction of being some of the “most friendly.”

Tori also had the privilege of meshing with her own team very well. She says that all of the dancers were “in the same boat,” nervous and excited in equal parts. She’s thankful that a few of them had been to the world championships before and were able to offer their teammates some reassurance.

Overall, Tori says, Team Canada performed most strongly in the more technical arenas of ballet and jazz.

She says that watching other teams’ interpretation of contemporary dance was incredible as she discovered a vast range of styles, intricate choreography and emotive body movements. Each team had its own national style and Tori was excited and honoured to show the world how “Canada interprets dance” alongside her team.

Team Canada West made the podium a total of 21 times, receiving three gold, nine silver and nine bronze medals.

When the competition in Poland wrapped up on Dec. 9, Tori jumped on the plane and made it back to Alberta on Dec. 10. Just in time to attend dress rehearsals for The Nutcracker, which opened at the University of Lethbridge on Dec. 15. She simply didn’t have time for any jet lag!

By all accounts, including her own, The Nutcracker was a great success. And now Tori is spending the holidays catching up on school work in order to complete her semester, before starting new classes in February.

Tori also has to finish preparations for her Advanced 1 ballet exam, as well as competitions in Lethbridge and Edmonton in April, and Turning Pointe Dance Studio’s annual year-end show in May.

In short, she will soon be back to her usual pace — one that would make the more slothful among us cringe — as she happily balances a packed dance schedule with the last semester of high school.

Tori Wakaluk, second from right, with members of her small contemporary group, brought home five medals from world competition in Poland in December.   Photo courtesy of Tori Wakaluk