By Steve Hubrecht

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United Dance, Invermere’s local dance studio, held its year-end recital last weekend, capping off a successful season that included winning the dance-off at a major Banff dance competition and sending one of its senior dancers to provincials.

But as studio owner Kayja Becker told the Pioneer, perhaps the best part of this past dance season – it was the first time in three years that the threat of possible COVID-19 related closures or modifications hasn’t impinged in some way.

“It was really nice to have that confidence at the start of the season, back in the fall, knowing that all our in-person performances and competitions were guaranteed to go ahead,” said Becker. “Last year things were much better than the year before, but there was still uncertainty. This year there was none of that.”

United Dance had 54 competitive dancers this year, both girls and boys, and they took part in three major competitions. 

Senior United dancer and Grade 12 David Thompson Secondary School (DTSS) student Amber Jefferson qualified to represent United at the Performing Arts provincials in Penticton from May 28 to June 2.

Prior to departing for the competition, Jefferson said she was looking forward to attending the event in person (she had participated in provincials in 2022, but that was done by video submission, owing to pandemic-related restrictions). She noted it would be quite different to be on stage and to actually see who she is competing with.

The provincials turned out to be a great experience for Jefferson. She didn’t make it to the winner’s circle, but she had a great time, and was able to take part in some excellent workshops and training sessions.

“I want to thank my mom, dad, grandparents, siblings, friends and all my dance teachers that I’ve had over the years because I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t have the supporters that I have,” said Jefferson. “I also want to say to not only dancers, but other kids in sports too, that they should never give up on pursuing what they love and always be kind to everyone involved.”

Aside from being a senior dancer with United, Jefferson was a part-time teacher at the studio. Next season she will become a full-time teacher there.

“It’s really been a great season,” said Becker. “I’m so proud of our dancers. They’ve worked very hard, and they’ve been able to see that hard work pay off. We have so much talent here in the valley.”

For Becker, dance is more than just an extracurricular pursuit. It’s about teaching students the value of dedication and teamwork, so they can apply it in other parts of their lives.

“With dance there’s a dedication and discipline that’s perhaps different from many sports. There is a responsibility to the team, because in choreographed dance everyone really must do their part,” said Becker. “You can’t simply bench somebody who is not pulling their weight, like you can in a lot of other team sports.”

This fosters a deep spirit of cooperation.

“And that helps set students up for success in all kinds of other avenues,” explained Becker. “That’s one big focus, and the other is helping students realize the value of setting goals and working to achieve them. We have a saying in the studio that you don’t use the word ‘can’t’ unless you also use the word ‘yet’. We want them to learn that they can in fact reach their goals if they work for it. That’s important.”

Becker extended a huge thank you to the dancers, dance teachers, students, parents and volunteers who made the season so successful. She can’t wait to see what next year brings.

Senior dancer Amber Jefferson from United Dance earned a spot in the provincial competition.
(Photo submitted)