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.

Mountain View preps for a musical adventure

Masha Scheele Photo

Masha Scheele

Wild animals have been roaming around École Mountain View School preparing for their big stage debut in June.

Music and drama teacher Jessica Smeall has been working with students from grade four to seven since December on the junior play, ‘Madagascar – A Musical Adventure.’

Alex the Lion, Marty the Zebra, Gloria the Hippo, Melman the Giraffe, Lemur King Julien, and the penguins make up some of the characters in the play that’s based on the movie, Madagascar.

Students chose the one-hour long play in September from Musical Theatre International.

“In this play you’ve got the cute and cuddly penguins that have kind of a sinister side, but then there’s also the main characters like Melman the giraffe who has this social anxiety and phobia of everything to Alex the Lion who is front and centre all day and that’s their gig. And the way that the students characterize that is probably my favourite part,” said Smeall.

The story starts at the New York Central Park Zoo and follows main character, Marty the Zebra, who wants to go to the wild after seeing it on a mural.

Thirty-five students take up various roles, including a chorus, solo speakers, and the main cast who have solo speaking and singing parts.

Hannah Jespersen, who is part of the school play for her third time, said her favourite part is playing Melman the giraffe.

“Melman is kind of scared of everything. He’s not sure he wants to be there and then in the end he’s like ‘oh this is fun,” she said.
“I thought it was going to be hard remembering all my dialogue but surprisingly it has been pretty easy,” commented Jespersen.

Masha Scheele Photo

After auditions in the fall, Smeall gave each student their part and rehearsals were held during recess twice per week.

“I’ve had students in Grade 4 have main roles, I’ve had students in Grade 7 with that main role. Sometimes it’s their first time, sometimes it’s their third or fourth time,” said Smeall.

Some of the students with the main roles this year are also part of other music theatre groups in Hinton like Break-A-Leg Theatre Arts Society and have performed at The West Fraser Guild: Home of the Performing Arts Theatre of Hinton (PATH).

“Seeing students in grades four til seven, from different grades, different backgrounds, different socioeconomic statuses come together and enjoy the same thing and perform as a group.

That sense of that community that comes from theatre and music is really heart-warming, because I see these same students out on the playground talking to each other or interacting in the community environments where maybe before they wouldn’t have had that opportunity,” said Smeall.

Leading up to the performance date, students also have four after- school rehearsals, and a stage practice.

“I’ve seen huge growth in the last month of recess practices, I hope they’re enjoying it. I’ve seen lots of smiles, I think they’re realizing that they’re good,” stated Smeall, who has organized the play for the past five years with productions like Seussical, Alice in Wonderland, Annie, and the Little Mermaid.

“I’ve put my own spin on different parts of the music program, but I think that the drama program has pretty much stayed the same. The previous teacher who is now retired had a really strong music and theatre program as well, so I had big shoes to fill and I hope I’ve done it justice,” said Smeall.

Smeall calls herself a jock and a band geek, as she focused on music theatre, and arts, but also physical education throughout her time as a grade school student.

“Those two things really brought me joy, so in high school I was in choirs, I was in bands, I did musical theatre, I loved drama. Then in university I got into some local orchestral groups, so I played in bands and orchestras, different varieties of music,” she said.

Her goal at Mountain View is to enable the students to enjoy those things as well.

Masha Scheele Photo

“My [favourite part] is working with Miss Smeall and all the other cast members and being King Julien. I mean, I’m the party king,” said Paige Taylor, another student who has been part of the play for multiple years.

The production will run three times this year, first in the morning on June 4 for the other students at École Mountain View, then a mini performance of a few songs for the pre-school and in the afternoon, students from Crescent Valley come to enjoy the second full show.

The third show and finale takes place on Thursday evening, June 6 for the public. Smeall said that all they ask is to bring a donation for the food bank if you can.

Wild Mountain Mash Up returns with two categories

File Photo
Edmonton-area band Alleviate rocked the stage at the 2018 Wild Mountain Music Mash Up event.

Tyler Waugh

Emerging performers will have a chance to earn a shot on the Wild Mountain Music Festival main stage in 2020 as the Mash Up returns on June 1 at Masters.

This year two spots in the 2020 festival will be up for grabs as organizers have decided to split the competition into a category for bands and a separate one for singer/ songwriters.

Jason Williams, music director for Wild Mountain, said the creation of two categories is to reflect the realities of two different sounds.

“It’s hard for a singer/songwriter to create that same sort of sound and impact that a full band can have. It’s about fairness and it’s about acknowledging that you can’t compare apples and oranges,” said Williams, though he conceded that singer-songwriters like Jake Buckley had won in the past.

“But that’s a rare talent, a rare occasion with guys like Buckley. We wanted to give more of an opportunity for singer/songwriters to be showcased.”

When organization of the 2019 Wild Mountain Music Festival was initiated there was some

uncertainty whether there would be the necessary time or resources to commit to a Mash Up this year. However, the group got some help to pull it off. Questions or submissions can be directed to Bob Roach at bobroach@telus.net.

“When people get in touch we can provide some more info and let anybody know about the application process,” Williams said.

Besides stage time at the 2020 Wild Mountain, one winner will also receive eight hours recording time at Blue Diamond Studios.

The Mash Up performances are free to attend and enjoy with a tentative start time of 7 pm.

“Some of that will depend on how many performers end up booking. I think right now there’s room for maybe one more band and a couple singer/songwriters,” Williams said.

Wild Mountain is set for July 19 – 21 at Entrance Ranch with a lineup highlighted by performers like Colin James, Shred Kelly and Five Alarm Funk.

More information on the lineup and site amenities can be found at www.wildmtnmusic.ca.

Early bird ticket deals end June 1 and can be purchased online at http://www.wildmtnmusic.ca/ tickets.

Colin James returns to Wild Mountain stage

Tyler Waugh

Colin James got back to the blues with his last album, and in July he’s getting back to the Wild Mountain Music Festival main stage to headline Saturday night.

James headlined in 2016 and Jason Williams, music director for Wild Mountain, said the crowd can expect a live performance that has continued to develop since then.

“It’s great news for us … especially after he just won another Juno this year. He’s evolved once again,” Williams said.

“Even since the last time he’s played … I’ve seen him four or five times in the last year and a half … he’s found another gear. He’s really putting on a great show and you can tell he’s just happy to be there and you can feel it.”

James has been a fixture of the Canadian music scene since busting out with his blues influenced hits like Voodoo Thing, Why’d You Lie and Five Long Years in 1988, followed up with Keep On Lovin’ Me Baby and Just Came Back in 1990.

At one point in his career he was told not to play the blues because the label wanted a pop hit, but he has continued to chart his own path with journeys into blues, acoustic blues and folk. But the release of Miles To Go in fall 2018, his 19th album, marks a return to blues … something James says is the only genre where you can maintain a young profile at age 53.

“Music is such a passion and a lifeforce for me. I can’t help but be drawn to something that moves me. If it’s not pulling you in, then what’s

the point? There was a time when I was affected by a review that said ‘he should decide whether he’s a rock star or a swing artist’ or whatever. I am a chameleon. I’ve learned to become okay with that and not make excuses for it. I realize that all the things that get you to where you’re going are important. As long as you keep striving to become better, that’s all that counts,” said James.

Williams said that the business community continues to step up and support in that sense continues to stay ahead of target to date. He says the focus now will be to drive support in another sense – and that is ticket sales.

He said that announcing headliners like Colin James, as well as earlier announcements surrounding Five Alarm Funk and Shred Kelly, will be followed by a full lineup announcement within the next couple of weeks. He hopes fan response will come early and often in the form of ticket sales.

“Without seeing or knowing where we are going with attendance it’s hard to plan and prepare. Buying early gives us a heads up on what to expect and, with cash flow, money in the bank is always helpful. If people are planning to come it will be a big help to the festival for them to get their tickets,” Williams said.

Tickets for Wild Mountain, which returns to Entrance Ranch from July 19 – 21, are available at www.facebook.com/events/2239975119663630/. The early bird pricing deadline is coming June 1, the same day that Wild Mountain has decided to return the Wild Mountain Mash Up.

“It’s one of those things that we took a wait and see with because of resources, but we’ve been getting calls and there’s a demand. We’ve got some help and so we decided to move ahead,” Williams said.

There are still details to finalize about the Mash Up, but the idea right now is to have at least a couple different categories. Performers looking to participate in the Mash Up should email bobroach@telus.net.

Young stars come to shine in Grand fashion

Kara Lazorek (above) performed Hallelujah at the YRAF Grand Concert held May 2 at The West Fraser Guild – PATH
Tyler Waugh Photo

Tyler Waugh

If this past week’s Grand Concert to close out the Yellowhead Regional Arts Festival showed anything it’s that the kids are, indeed, alright.

Whether it was local high school rock bands performing covers and original works, or Jasperite Sophia Mastrianni, who crushed a piano inspired cover of Pink Floyd’s classic Mother, the vibe of the grand concert changed ever so slightly.

“We listen to what people want and so when we were approached about bringing rock band in for this year we said absolutely. I think the response was positive and well received and I was really impressed to see these teenagers get on stage and kind of get into rock star mode,” said Jacqueline Delisle, longtime executive director of YRAF.

“With a couple of the bands performing it adds a different sound to the event. It was nice to add some variety beyond that classical focus we’ve seen in the past.”

Jason Williams, musical director with the Wild Mountain Music Festival, was at the Grand Concert and said he was impressed.

“You have youth on stage performing songs they wrote, that’s incredible … that’s what it’s all about,” he said, adding that he would love to find a way to encourage that continued youth development in the local music scene.

“That’s part of what we do, supporting local music. What I saw (that) night really got my mind working.”

The concert concluded almost two weeks of artistic endeavours, and included Kara Lazorek’s rendition of the Leonard Cohen classic ‘Hallelujah’, which earned her a perfect score from the adjudicators.

“That’s the first time in my time with YRAF that I’ve heard of somebody achieving that mark. The funny thing … she hadn’t planned on participating, she hadn’t prepared but we had a spot open up and she said OK,” said Delisle, adding that it reinforced in her the beauty of YRAF and what it offers when people take that chance and put themselves out there.

“In reality, YRAF is here to offer encouragement, and constructive ways that you can grow as an artist. There’s no Simon Cowell sitting in the corner, waiting to judge you. YRAF is here to help artists grow their skills, and to give them a glimpse of how amazing they are through other people’s eyes. We saw that with several artists this year, and it was incredible to both witness, and be a part of.”

YRAF saw participation and adjudication in several traditional disciplines like voice and piano, as well as new classics like Lego. Delisle said there’s always a bit of up and down with registration in different categories, pointing out that visual arts was removed this year due to low interest.

“It may be back, though, if there’s demand … absolutely,” said Delisle.“Registration was good overall and I believe our registration was up for out of town participants from Jasper and Edson.”

Open mic music a creative outlet for Paquet

Photo by Jax Delisle

Masha Scheele

The Old Grind has been a significant creative outlet for Alice Paquet, and on May 11 she returns to the coffee shop for Siren Sessions; celebrating women in music.

“I have two or three, I think three, originals I decided on. And then four covers – a Brandi Carlile song, a Janis Joplin song…” Paquet trailed off as she talked about her setlist, which according to her, is subject to change at any moment.

Paquet has been writing original music since she was 18 years old, which she performs locally at various events in Hinton and open mic nights.

“People who know me in town know the one that I wrote, most people call it the Unicorn song. I haven’t technically named it yet but it’s pretty silly and people like it,” she said.

Paquet started playing guitar when she was 12 years old and is a lifelong singer, but she didn’t start performing consistently until she moved to Hinton three years ago.

“I did a couple of open mics throughout the years, but when I moved here three years ago I really started to try to get out there,” she stated.

“The open mics at the Legion and Masters will kind of ebb and flow. The nice thing about The Old Grind is, outside of the summer months, they always have theirs every (first) Friday. The consistency is really nice,” she explained.

Soundman Bob Roach has been the driving force behind the open mic nights and is also organizing Siren Sessions. His goal is to provide a safe environment for artists to learn their craft.

“Bob is pretty good. He’ll give you a signal if you’re running too late or give you the thumbs up if you can play a couple more,” said Paquet.

Paquet also added that although she has seen some of the other Siren Sessions performers play in Hinton, there will be some new faces on stage that night.

“I know Kara [Lazorek] has a very sultry voice and Stacy [Renard] has really beautiful piano playing,” she added.

Besides music, Paquet works full-time for Bighorn Wildlife Technologies Ltd. as a GS analyst and a field technician.

“I do a lot of science, a little computer work and it’s very right-brain dominated,” she said.

Music is something that helps Paquet balance her life as it provides a creative outlet, she said.

“Me and my partner just purchased a house last year and got a dog, so we’re busy people. I don’t always afford as much time as I’d like to on my guitar playing. As much as I would like to say, ‘yea, I’d play any show I possibly can’, it’s not always realistic time-wise. But any time I have a chance, I try to get on it,” she said.

Paquet also performed at the Föhn Festival in 2018, played during YRAF’s two Valentine’s Day concerts in 2018 and 2019, and provided background music for the ALS walks two years in a row.

Through her experience in Hinton’s music scene she was fortunate to meet a lot of local musicians who support and help her as she progresses as an artist.

“I know of Dave [Martineau] – I know he has a recording studio in Brule and then through the Valentine’s Day concert I met a young producer who works out of Edson, so there does seem to be the opportunity [to record]. I just haven’t really sought it out yet,” she stated.

Other performers featured at Siren Sessions include Kara Lazorek, Sydney Waddel, Mary Lee Bird, Cristin Bostrom, Deanna & Jen Henderson and Stacy & Jessa Renard. Siren Sessions starts at 5 pm and proceeds go to the Yellowhead Emergency Shelter for Women (YES) childcare program.

Drama returns with one-act-play

Brent Gosnell is among the student cast members as Harry Collinge presents ‘How To Succeed In High School Without Really Trying’
Masha Scheele photo

Masha Scheele

Drama teacher Chandra Moir and her students are working this semester on a one-act play called ‘How to Succeed in High School Without Really Trying’ by Jonathan Rand.

Moir moved to Hinton to become the new drama and english teacher at Harry Collinge High School in 2018 and her passion for theatre inspired her to start building the drama program and find students with the same passion.

The storyline of the play follows a group of student agents who infiltrate an assembly to demonstrate their secret tips and tricks to a Grade 8 audience to help make high school easier.

“They have homeroom [tips], you should change your name to ‘what’ or to ‘say what you said a second ago,’ so legally change your name. They have tips on how to get through english class, how to use ‘juxtapose’ and ‘albatross’ and ‘darkness’. I am an english teacher, they are very accurate. They have a protest against P.E. class, because nobody wants to get sweaty. How to memorize dates easier for history classes. So they have agents speaking to them and then we have little scenes to demonstrate each little tip as well,” explained Moir.

The play is around 30 minutes long, but Moir hopes to stretch it to about 45 minutes.

“We haven’t had an after-school production for some time with the drama program. So I wanted to start small and see what the interest was based on that, instead of doing a full length hour, hour and a half production where I have no kids, and nobody comes. I’d rather start with something smaller,” said Moir.

As Moir works to build up the drama program she hopes down the line they will be able to do full-length productions and do musicals in collaboration with the music program like they’ve done in the past.

Currently, around 14 to 17 students are part of the after-school program said Moir and she hopes they return for more next semester.

“I have 10 cast members in the show, but I have backstage help and some kids just drop in and help and some are very consistent,” she said.

Grade 8 students, Haley LaBoucane and Mason Cardiff, are part of the backstage crew learning how to manage the lighting and sound. LaBoucane said she also helps with stage directing and set construction.

“Seeing how it all comes together in the end, and being able to direct if they need help” is what’s exciting about being part of the backstage crew said LaBoucane.

Auditions for the one-act play were open to all high school students in January and Moir said anybody with an interest would be given a role or task.

“My purpose of auditions was more so to match them to where I want them to be versus ‘yea, you’re good, you’re in.’ If they want to do something they should be able to, as long as I have the capability of doing so, which the show provides,” Moir said.

Rehearsals started in February and will continue until their performances at the end of May. One of the main roles is played by

Brent Gosnell, a Grade 11 student who plans to get his Bachelor of Arts after high school and take advanced drama classes in post-secondary.

“Since I was a child I always wanted to be an actor or a stand-up comedian or someone that just does stuff in front of crowds. That’s been a dream of mine since I was a child, so that’s what made me want to [audition],” said Gosnell.

Currently, Moir has students from grades eight to 11 participating in the play.

“They’re doing really good, they’re having a lot of fun with it. Some are more memorized than others. I don’t see the kids all the time, they come when they can. So I haven’t had a full cast rehearsal in quite some time, but we just keep moving, the kids learn as we go along,” said Moir. “They’re enjoying themselves. They get to act, they get to set construct, they get to costume construct, they get to do pretty much everything.”

Last semester, Moir focused mainly on classes, organizing, and preparing an interactive halloween maze escape room.

“We had them dress up and there were rooms with puzzles and locks and I’m hoping we can keep going next year as like a Halloween haunted escape room experience,” she said.

The play will be performed at 7 pm on May 21 to May 22 at HCHS. Tickets are available at the school on lunch breaks or at the door before the performance. Tickets are sold by donation and all proceeds go towards the drama department.