Hinton dancers go international

Masha Scheele Photo
Hinton School of Dance year-end recital

Masha Scheele

Thirty-eight dancers from Hinton are committing their time and effort to gain international credentials through the International Dance Academy this year.

After a successful and organized year, Hinton School of Dance (HSD) showed off their best routines during two weekends of performances in May. Around 100 students took to the stage and 38 of them form the exam division who after precise training will take the international exam on June 13 and 14.

“I hold a huge value to the exam process. It helps the dancers really work towards a goal, work harder because they know they are going to be examined and adjudicated on that. I believe it brings up the quality of the school,” said Tanya Strandlund, artistic director at HSD.

The exam program was brought back by Strandlund last year after a few years hiatus and now it’s a fast growing program once again.

Masha Scheele Photo
Hinton School of Dance year-end recital

“When people really wanted it back they were asking me and that’s when we formed the program again and now it has a different weight to it. People understand the prestige behind it, and in small town when people tell you this is prestigious, this is an important program, you’re lucky we’re able to afford it, you don’t always hear that. This time around everybody was very excited and very grateful,” noted Strandlund.

According to Strandlund, more dancers have made the commitment this year to take the exam than previously. An international examiner will come from the Cecchetti Canada Society International, said Strandlund, and this year the examiner is from the Alberta Ballet.

“Then we bring in a pianist from Edmonton who is used to playing for exams. It’s a really cool experience, and we do it here in Hinton,” said Strandlund.

Dancers within the program are held to certain requirements, like an outlined amount of training each week and physical expectations. 

“In the end it’s so worth it because they have international credentials, stating that this is the level they’ve completed. They could go to any school internationally,” said Strandlund.

Strandlund said some students from HSD have gone on to train in England, dance for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, and even dance for the National Ballet in New York.

“One of our dancers left last year and was accepted into the Vimy Ridge program at Edmonton School of Ballet. She’s there now. We have another dancer going to Lethbridge, one to Calgary. They’re doing fantastic, their exam results last year were wonderful,” stated Strandlund.

Strandlund is a qualified teacher of the exam program, for which she took extra training. Besides the exam division at HSD, the school also offers a recreational division, in which they learn the fundamentals of dancing but there are no time requirements, the acrobatics division, and the competitive division. The competitive division requires attendance to a specific number of classes each week in order for the dancers to compete in other areas.

HSD took part in three competitions this spring in Camrose, Edmonton, and Hinton.

Strandlund noted during the first competition HSD dancers competed against other dancers who had done three to five competitions already, which was slightly intimidating, but by the second one they nailed their craft and competed well.

Masha Scheele Photo
Hinton School of Dance year-end recital

“We only do three per season. Some schools do upwards of seven. But we won’t do that, we will never do that. We’re just not that school. We consider ourselves a very good school, but because we don’t spend all the time travelling away, it takes away class time. We feel that we’ve hit a good balance,” said Strandlund.

Strandlund organized the Hinton competition, Dance Summit, for the fourth year in a row on May 3 and 5.

Her idea for the competition was to allow the dancers and dance families to experience the competition and be able to go home at the end of each night.

Since its inception, the competition has grown from one and half days to a full three day event.

“Where I feel like it’s really grown is how we operate the school is so inclusive, it’s such a friendly environment, we really operate as a team. And that’s hard to say with a board conjoined with a faculty,” said Strandlund.