What a whirlwind these past few months have been, much of it due to Claire’s participation on Team Canada Dance!
Back in March, Claire auditioned to be a part of Team Canada Dance (West), which would be competing in Poland at the International Dance Organization’s (IDO) World Championships in Ballet, Jazz and Modern Dance. It took several months before she learned of the good news, but good news is always worth the wait: she made the Team!
From August to almost Christmas, our lives pretty much revolved around her involvement on the team. With seven routines to learn, she spent many hours in rehearsal while Paul and I spent many hours driving her back and forth to the dance studio! As time went on, there were parent meetings, shopping trips for extra dance things she needed, fundraising requirements and finally in November, a showcase of all the amazing dance routines Team Canada West would be performing in Poland – oh, and more rehearsals after that of course!
Finally, on December 1, we departed for Poland. Unfortunately, our team wasn’t able to fly all together on the same plane but Claire at least had several team mates and friends with her. Here they are at the airport before leaving.
The team itself was made up of 61 dancers and three choreographers. The following picture was taken much later in the trip, but it shows the entire team.
We were the one lucky group from our team who had a direct flight from Toronto to Warsaw. The rest of Team Canada West had stopovers in Frankfurt, Munich and Amsterdam.
Thankfully we arrived in Warsaw without incident and boarded our bus for the one-hour drive to the hotel and convention center southwest of Warsaw. Situated about 15 minutes from a small town named Rawa Mazowiecka, our home away from home for the next several days was Hotel Ossa Congress and Spa. It was massive, and even saying that is an understatement.
I couldn’t get the entire thing into one picture so you’ll only see parts of it at a time. The pictures above and below show the main entrance and the theatre wing off to the left.In the next photo, you can see the front wing of another huge section of the hotel. We stayed in the back wing of the far right-hand side of the hotel. I should have worn my Fitbit to count the steps I took every day going back and forth from our room to the far-off theatre wing.
We arrived at the hotel before dinner on Saturday night, and by Sunday morning at 7:30 a.m, these crazy girls were all set to dance!
LOL, I had to include that silly shot because soon enough, the girls had their serious dance faces on!
Now, normally at dance competitions, spectators are not allowed to take photos because there is a professional photography company on site and they want the monopoly on the photos so that they can charge an arm and a leg. At this competition, however, you could buy a special pass to take photos yourself from the audience. I was torn about whether to bother or not, but Paul insisted I’d want to take photos and he was right! I didn’t really have the right lens for it, but the photos are good enough for my purposes.
Their first dance up was their small modern group:
In this category, there were 22 routines from various countries. Whoever made it to the semi-finals would dance again, and then again if they made it to the finals. And our girls made it all the way to the finals! (By the way, in regular dance competitions, the kids only dance their routines once so it was great to see each routine several times over at this competition.)
Our girls placed 6th out of 22 with their small modern group, and we couldn’t have been more proud!
Claire was able to ward off jet lag and exhaustion during competing, but as soon as we got back to our room, she succumbed to it all! Lucky for her she had the next day off to relax.
Tuesday was the debut of their large modern group. By then, they were all (mostly) rested and they danced their hearts out once again.
Their large modern group was one of my favourite routines of theirs. They danced it beautifully, and came in 5th out of 18.
Next up was their small jazz group.
The girls totally killed it in this routine and it paid off BIG! They earned the gold medal!
Here’s the moment they realized they got first place:
Seeing that realization set in upon their faces is a moment I’ll never forget. They were the new world champions for small group jazz!
And here they are on the podium!
That took place on Thursday which was a crazy day. The girls performed their small jazz group that day (in continuation from the night before) as well as ALL of their ballet routines.
Their first ballet routine that day was their small ballet group.
Both Canadian teams – East and West – performed beautifully and soon only those two teams were left in the running for first and second place. Note in the photo below how Claire (near center) is clasping hands with one of the girls on the right-hand side of the picture from Team Canada East. They became close over the course of the week, bonding over performing ballet duets in the same category.
Ballet large group was next.
Once again, our girls made it to the podium in second place, with Team Canada East in first.
Finally, near Claire’s bedtime, she and her partner Anna performed their beautiful duet.
(Note: the last photo above is from the professional photography company at the event. It was posted on their web page.)
The girls made it to the finals (performing for the last time well after Claire’s usual bedtime!) and came in fourth place!
At one of the merchandise tables, they displayed t-shirts you could buy that contained the name of every solo or duet participant by genre in the competition. Since Claire had a ballet duet, her name appeared on the ballet t-shirt which of course we had to buy!
Friday morning was a little rough considering how late the girls had to stay up the night before but once they got on stage, you’d never know it! They brought amazing energy to their dance and completely nailed the routine.
This, their large jazz routine, was their last routine of the competition. It was a little bittersweet seeing them perform it during the finals because we knew it was their last moments on the world stage. But wouldn’t you know it, they went out with a bang! They earned second place once again, next to their Team Canada East friends in first.
Here’s the moment they realized Team Canada East won gold while our girls took silver.
It was an amazing end to an equally amazing week.
Later that day, I had to capture Claire wearing all of her hardware: one gold medal, three silvers and two finalist medals. (She was also a finalist in their seventh routine but it was a large group and they received certificates instead of medals for that one.)
Dance was the reason we were in Poland but if you ask Claire, what stands out to her most are all the fun times she had with her friends. They spent countless hours in the rehearsal hall together, eating meals together, swimming, exploring, making each other laugh and consoling each other when emotions ran high. These twelve girls are thick as thieves now, and will always share a special bond.
While Claire treasures the friendships she made during this experience, I see additional things that Claire gained. She’s always been a hard worker but she gained more stamina during these last few months, both physically and mentally. She gained more independence. She’s become more resilient. She’s become a stronger, more compassionate team member.
It’s like those articles we dance moms come across from time to time about why we spend so much time, money and energy on our children’s dance if our children are not going to become professional dancers one day. It’s because it’s not all about the dancing at the end of the day. It’s about all the lessons learned and skills developed along the way.
And so, from this mama’s perspective, the whirlwind of these past few months, the jet lag, the long days, the thousands of dollars to travel to Poland … the value of all of these is not the collection of medals earned on stage in Poland; rather, the value or the reward is the culmination of the skills and qualities Claire developed during these last few months. The hardware may get lost in a drawer some day but the intangible benefits of the experience will serve Claire well over the course of her life.