It’s Day 1 of an event that dates back almost a century.
The Kelowna Kiwanis Festival is an annual tradition that provides young performers the opportunity to get up on stage and show off their skills.
“It’s a big event for many in the community because we have young performers, and they come and they work so hard,” said executive director Karen Jean Machura. “They bundle their nerves and find a way just to perform, learn through skills that are developed to enhance their confidence and abilities and who they are.”
There are three components to the festival: voice, music and dance, which is the focus of the first month of events.
“This will be my eighth year competing in the Kiwanis Festival,” said 17-year-old ballet dance participant Olivia Solano. “I definitely think that Kiwanis is a huge opportunity for performers, especially in the smaller cities such as Kelowna. We don’t really get as many opportunities. There are a few other dance competitions, but they are quite a bit more expensive and this just a really great opportunity to see a stage.”
For participating dancers, the festival is a qualifier for the annual provincial competition.
“You have to get first in at least two categories and then the adjudicator will pick if you’re the representative to go to the provincials,” said another participant, Hannah Zobel.
Over the next few days, young dancers will have the opportunity to learn new techniques and hone their skills through workshops at the Rotary Centre for the Arts.
They will also get the chance to perform in front of adjudicators from all across Canada and get some critical feedback to help them evolve and achieve their dance goals.
“For me, it’s all about telling stories,” said ballet dancer Sage Kirk. “I’m in love with stories in so many ways so I love being able to go on stage and share an idea and emotions behind the movement to the audience.”
Just like many of the other participants, Kirk has been dancing ballet since she was a little girl and has set her sights on a professional career in the field.
“We train at least three hours a day. It takes a lot of physical work. You have to be also strong mentally because it is grueling,” Kirk said. “Not everybody realizes because it seems like a pretty beautiful thing, which it is, but it takes a lot of hard work.”
Participants have an opportunity to win about $10,000 in scholarships and even a spot performing in the final gala concert on May 31.
“We have an opportunity for the public to come and see some of the most phenomenal talent on that stage,” Machura said.
With over 3,000 participants and hundreds of volunteers, this year’s Kelowna Kiwanis Festival is sure to be the biggest in almost a century.
All events, from March 3 to April 26, are open to the public and free of charge. There is a schedule listed on the festival’s website.
The final gala, which takes place on May 31 at the Rotary Centre for the Arts, will involve a small cost to experience some incredible local talent.