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Sunshine Coast Festival of the Performing Arts climax delivers moving experience

Hundreds of dance performances during the Coastal Dance Festival resulted in the first round of awards in the 2024 Sunshine Coast Festival of the Performing Arts.
Gabriella Munson performs “Dennis Was A Bird” in the contemporary solo category of the Coastal Dance Festival on April 20.

Hundreds of dance performances during the Coastal Dance Festival resulted in the first round of awards in the 2024 Sunshine Coast Festival of the Performing Arts. 

The two-day dance event, on April 20 and 21, featured participants from studios in Sechelt and Gibsons: Waldorf Ballet, Coast Academy of Dance and the Gibsons Dance Centre. 

Andrea Villanueva and Peter Reznick received top prizes for their classical ballet solos. Villanueva also earned an award for the best stage solo while Reznick shared the trophy for top duo with collaborator Connor Dixon. 

Makenzi Harris finished first in the category of top modern/contemporary solo. The Coast Academy of Dance’s ensemble performance of Surrender netted the distinction of Top Group. 

Dancers performed across a variety of disciplines, including a raucous song and dance tribute to TV legends Lucy (Lucille Ball) Ricardo and Ethel Mertz presented by Taya Bruce and Tlell Purjue. A full afternoon dedicated to classical ballet featured dozens of soloists, ensembles and the duo of Gabrielle Desharnais and Robyn Baines (performing In Harmony). 

The dance festival is affiliated with the Sunshine Coast Festival of the Performing Arts, which concluded its three weeks of adjudicated performances on April 25. 

The full complement of scholarships and awards will be announced at the festival’s upcoming highlights concert, scheduled for May 11 at the Heritage Playhouse in Gibsons. 

Noted Canadian musicians JJ Guy and Gordon Stobbe adjudicated folk performances on April 18. The festival recognizes compositions by Indigenous artists; Ally Sato played two pieces by Métis fiddler Andy De Jarlis. Five large folk ensembles also performed, leading to an appearance by the Coast String Fiddlers. An earlier group, the Intermediate Adult Fiddlers, played an original piece (“Dan & Mischa’s Wedding”) composed by the festival’s bowed strings discipline coordinator, Serena Eades. 

Guy and Stobbe toured the Lower Coast on April 18, performing two school concerts before joining accordionist Annette Fischer on-stage at St. Bartholomew’s Anglican Church for a fully-subscribed concert that evening. 

Spoken-word presentations on April 19 featured the innovative use of props (“Pizza Problems,” dramatized by Ruby Stephenson) and costumed comedy (“Jailhouse Wolf,” performed by Amy Wood). Four adult performers also received feedback from adjudicator Nitasha Rajoo. Patricia Hetherington delivered an autobiographical tour-de-force (“Coming Home”) that ranged from ebullience to pathos. 

April 23 marked the final set of performances at St. Hilda’s Anglican Church, as vocal adjudicator Frances Roberts provided constructive feedback on a wide range of solo and group performances. Teaguen Craig demonstrated breathtaking musical versatility, rendering German lieder (Clara Schumann’s Liebst Du Um Schonheit), operetta (Gluck’s O Del Mio Dolce Ardor), and a musical theatre selection from Lerner and Loewe’s My Fair Lady. A trio of community choirs sang three selections each: the Choralations Children’s Choir, the Suncoast Phoenix Community Choir, and A Cappella Strait. 

The beginner and senior bands of Chatelech Secondary performed on April 25 in their school’s auditorium, with their mix of film and pop culture soundtracks eliciting positive reviews from adjudicator Bob Rebagliati. Horn player Paul Pedlar joined saxophonists Ythan Leitso and Leif Montgomery for the solo and duet segment of the wind instrument program. 

During the Highlights Concert on May 11, delegates to the provincial festival will be announced. The 2024 Provincial Festival of the Arts occurs in Fort St. John early next month.  

According to organizers, the concert will also include commemoration of the local Performing Arts Festival’s 50th anniversary and its thousands of performances since 1974.