Three local Sea to Sky dancers have been selected to be a part of Team Canada and will attend the International Dance Organization (IDO) World Acrobatic Dance Championships in Gibraltar from June 30 to July 7.
Yale Letchford, 11, Noémie Cozens, 12, and Ollie Crowell, 11, who have been dancing at Squamish Dance Centre since they were toddlers, will be attending the championships which include more than 250,000 dancers from six continents.
These three girls from the Centre are the only Squamish members on the 18-dancer team.
At the competition, one gold, silver, or bronze medal is awarded to each dance division. Like at the Olympics, the top three medallists stand on the podium as their flags are raised and the winning national anthem is played.
“Canada has been quite successful in all dance disciplines at the World Championships and this is mainly due to the high standards of training that our local studios offer," said Bonnie Dyer, national director of Team Canada Dance, in a news release.
Letchford praised her home studio in the release.
“Squamish Dance Centre feels like home and is such a great place to train. Miss Sara [Constantin] has created a place I love with really positive values. Our acro teachers, Miss Kim [Durham] and Miss Brittany [Durham] have always believed in us," she said.
"They have high expectations, so we went to the Team Canada auditions feeling confident and well supported. We couldn’t have done this without all our SDC teachers”
“The girls will be competing in acro dance, which is an athletic combination of dance, floor gymnastics, contortion, circus arts," the team's coach, Lexy Cox, told The Squamish Chief in an email.
Shayla Symes from the 2023 team is an assistant coach this season.
"Captivating routines have a theme and emotional connection to the audience as well as the 'wow factor' to thrill the judges,” Cox said.
Cozens said she is grateful for the opportunity to join Team Canada.
"Since my audition and acceptance, I have had the privilege of working with dancers from all over the province. My rehearsals have me travelling to Coquitlam, Surrey and even Chilliwack on a regular basis," the dancer said in the release.
"I love the opportunity of being able to do what I love with people from all over the place who share the same passion. My Team Canada instructor Lexy Cox works so hard at choreography and my team is so dedicated. This just shows how much work it takes to be able to represent Team Canada. I can't wait to keep learning and growing through this experience."
Cox said that getting to compete at the highest level of excellence for acro dance with judges from all over the world is a great benefit for the girls.
"Meeting ... dancers from other countries who have similar goals and interests as them [and] making friendships, experiencing a different culture, increasing their skill set and talents by training at such a high level," Cox said, summarizing the other benefits.
She said that the challenges for the dancers will be to overcome nerves and adapting to the time change as well as keeping up their energy.
"If they do well, they will [complete] each routine three times," Cox said. "Travel and commitment are huge, too. These dancers from Squamish have to travel to the Lower Mainland to train on top of their full-time studio programs, school work, etc.”
Cox said the team runs like a company, not a studio, meaning the youth have to learn to take responsibility.
“The kids are responsible for keeping track of their rehearsals, practicing choreography on their own and doing their own warm-up regimes. They have to keep up to the standard of the team."
Crowell said she is excited for the opportunity to grow.
"Being part of Team Canada is such a great opportunity for me and my teammates. We are all so excited to be a part of such an amazing team and to be representing Canada in another part of the world, as none of us have ever done that before. I am so excited to travel with my teammates and to make new friends,” she said.
How you can help
The dancers are also raising funds for their trip.
In Canada there is no government assistance for Team Canada Dance, so each member must raise $8,000 each to attend the competitions.
There will be a Purdys Chocolatier sale and an online auction starting Nov. 29 that runs through to Dec. 8th at 32auctions.com/teamcanadaacro.
"The girls are so grateful to the very generous local businesses and individuals who have already donated to their efforts. Every little bit counts. If you are interested in sponsoring the girls, feel free to reach out to Squamish Dance Centre and they can connect you," reads the release.
For more information on Team Canada Dance, go to www.teamcanadadance.ca
**Please note that this story was corrected after it was first published. The last names of Kim and Brittany Durham were originally provided to us incorrectly spelled, and subsequently corrected.