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'Huge privilege': Calgary dancers to represent Team Canada at youth world championships

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A group of talented young dancers from local Calgary dance studios are getting ready to show off their best moves and represent their country on the world stage.

They're part of a team of 76 performers from across Canada who will compete in the International Dance Organization's youth world championships in De Panne, Belgium next week.

Sydney Slauko is a 15-year-old dancer from Calgary who will perform in the ballet, jazz and contemporary categories.  

"It's such a huge privilege to be dancing with Team Canada," she said. "I feel like I get to challenge myself on another whole level that I've never experienced before."

"It's a big opportunity with over 30 countries competing with us. I feel like I just have to trust myself when I get out on stage, I tend to be a bit of an over thinker, but I've worked so hard all these months."

Slauko is no stranger to the spotlight, having collected numerous awards over the years, including the 2023 Calgary Junior Miss Candance Champion and breakout artist at the 2021 Nuvo Dance Convention. 

She's also travelled to Los Angeles and New York for extensive instructional opportunities and has even worked with Jon Ravnik who is currently dancing with Taylor Swift on her Eras Tour. 

"I've met so many great friends and these friendships will last forever and working with these new choreographers is really a great opportunity for us as we get to branch out our versatility and really experience the new teachings that they have."

Sydney Slauko is a 15-year-old dancer from Calgary. Fellow dancers at Prestige Dance Academy have been completing upwards of 12-hour training sessions every weekend since August to prepare for this international competition.

Ava Wolff, an 11-year-old dancer from Calgary says she's most looking forward to having fun on the stage now that the training cycle has been completed.

"I think it's going to be a really tough competition, but I'm really excited and it's going to be a great experience," she said.

"We're the only people from Alberta so I can't wait to show everyone how we dance."

Others. like 11 Fianna Fitzgerald, describe it as one of the biggest moments of their entire life.

"This is a once in a lifetime experience," Fitzgerald said. "It means the entire world."

"It's an incredible community and being able to represent Canada is such an amazing opportunity. It's going to be nerve-wracking but I'm excited to meet people from all around the world." 

Lisette Stein, owner and artistic director at the Prestige Dance Academy adds that it's been an absolute honour for her to teach the next generation of incredible talented performers and watch them grow.

The award-winning choreographer notes that this competition in particular has been a long time coming for so many of her students. 

"These kids are just so inspiring to me on every level, especially coming back after COVID because there wasn't dancing for a very long time," Stein said.

"The really feels kind of like an underdog story in a lot of ways, climbing out way back into it and we're coming back in a big way for the world championships. I'm very excited.

"Coming back after COVID, these kids weren't dancing for a very long time. This really feels kind of like an underdog story in a lot of ways, kind of climbing our way back into it and we're coming back in a big way for the World Championships. I'm very excited."

The IDO World Ballet, Jazz, Modern amd Contemporary Championships take place from Nov. 27 to Dec. 3 in De Panne, Belgium.

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