October 22, 2018 8:24 pm

Stampede 365: Empowering Calgary youth year-round and beyond

WATCH: In Part 1 of our special series Stampede 365, community reporter Deb Matejicka explores how the Calgary Stampede empowers youth to make their dreams come true.

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In a new four-part series, Stampede 365, Global News Community Reporter Deb Matejicka explores how the Calgary Stampede gives back to our city throughout the year.

A Calgary Stampede program was the catalyst for Louise Hradsky’s Hollywood choreography career.

The Young Canadians (TYC), a youth program offered by the Calgary Stampede Foundation, gave a teenage Hradsky the chance to choreograph her own dance routine. It wasn’t something she had done before but it later developed into a passion.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about what The Young Canadians gave me and I think what it did was plant seeds for believing in myself,” said Hradsky, now 32.

“When I was there, we had the opportunity to choreograph a piece if we wanted to,” she said.

“Just even being given that platform at, let’s say, 16 years old to express yourself and find your movement gave me enough of a taste to know that this is actually where I want to go. I pursued a performance career but now I’m primarily working in choreography.”

Hradsky’s choreography can be seen on television and film, including in the Disney franchise The Descendants. She’s also worked as a stuntwoman, most recently on the blockbuster flick Deadpool 2. Hradsky attributes the flexibility it takes to go from choreographer to stuntwoman to the gymnastics she was introduced to as a Young Canadian.

READ MORE: Astokomii Smith crowned 2019 Calgary Stampede First Nations Princess

It’s not just the physical skills Hradsky picked up as member of the group, which she was in for four years, that have made her successful. Similar to other youth programs the foundation offers year-round, TYC strives to provide valuable skills youth can use throughout their lives.

A Calgary Stampede program was the catalyst for Louise Hradsky’s Hollywood choreography career.

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Ryan Hancock was a member of the Stampede Showband for five years. He now manages it and said most of coworkers also participated in youth programs at the Stampede.

“We try to teach life through performance arts and life skills through the arts,” Hancock said. “Punctuality, commitment, time management. We rehearse hundreds of hours throughout the year.”

Ryan Hancock was a member of the Stampede Showband for five years.

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In March 2017, the foundation opened the TransAlta Performing Arts Studios where programs run almost 24/7. It’s where current TYC member Jack MacNeil, 13, has spent his after-school hours for the past five years.

“It’s not just the greatest outdoor show on earth; it’s the greatest experience on earth, in my opinion,” he said.

MacNeil said he joined TYC to grow his dance and hip hop skills but also discovered it’s a place where he can be himself.

READ MORE: 2019 Calgary Stampede Queen, Princesses crowned

“We are all one big family and you are encouraged to be who you are,” MacNeil said. “So when that music goes on, when the lights come up, when the curtains open, you know that you are being something you’ve always wanted to be.”

Charmaine Baquiran starred with TYC as a teen and now tours as a backup dancer with Christina Aquilera.

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Twenty-five-year-old Charmaine Baquiran starred with TYC as a teen and now tours as a backup dancer with Christina Aguilera. She said it was a great place to grow, counting her longest relationships as being the ones made with her fellow youth performers.

“It’s definitely a place where I have developed most of my families and relationships through there,” Baquiran said. “It’s like my friendships now are all from Young Canadians and those are the ones that are still lasting.”

Our Stampede 365 series continues next week with a look at how the Calgary Stampede educates youth by connecting kids with our western heritage.

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