After months of training, an Okotoks teen is ready to twirl her cowboy hat and kick her legs in one of the most popular shows at the Calgary Stampede.
Sixteen-year-old Sydney LeMaistre is one of seven Okotoks youths performing in the Bell Grandstand Show July 4-15 amongst acrobatics, singers and dancers. This year’s Trailblazer theme features showmaster Onalea and her travelling band of musical pirates.
In LeMaistre’s fourth year on the grandstand stage, she will dance in four numbers including the opening and finale shows.
While LeMaistre joins the senior dancers in a futuristic hip hop number that features LED tubes and CO2 cannons, it’s the traditional can-can dance that’s her favourite.
“It’s really high energy and lots of fun,” she said. “It’s something I’ve never done before so it was a challenge and it’s super cool to watch. There’s a lot going on on the stage.”
Donning corsets and ruffled skirts, the girls are lifted and spun around in this energetic act.
“We had to do a lot of stamina training in our corsets because we couldn’t really breath in them,” she said. “We would sometimes wear our corsets for two hours so we could get used to breathing in them.”
The performance closes with a finale that incorporates all aspects of the show, including the guest acts and cowboy hat choreography.
“I absolutely love performing on the grandstand stage,” said LeMaistre. “It’s like nothing I’ve ever done before. I came from a world of competitive dancing and I never quite felt right.”
For LeMaistre, Young Canadians was a perfect fit.
“It’s amazing to get on that stage and see thousands upon thousands of people there watching you,” she said. “It’s nerve racking at first because you’re like ‘I better not mess up.’ Once those nerves go away it’s so much fun.”
Dawn LeMaistre, director for the Partners of the Young Canadians, said the performers train on the Stampede grounds from September to May before having the opportunity to be casted in the grandstand show.
They dance 20 to 25 hours a week to start, and by June some are rehearsing as much as seven days a week, she said.
“It depends on what numbers each of the kids are in,” she said. “Certainly the younger ones don’t have as many hours that they’re training. Some of the senior dancers they’re there every night from about 5 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.”
The singers and dancers perform all 10 nights of the Calgary Stampede, following the chuckwagon races, until about 1:30 a.m., rain or shine.
Thirteen-year-old Hailey Murray will sing in three numbers – the opener, finale and a song called Animal Menagerie - in her fourth grandstand show.
For Murray and the other dozens of performers, there’s more to the show than just singing.
“There’s quite a bit of choreography,” she said. “We’re moving all the time.”
While the work to get stage ready is tough, Murray said it’s worth it.
“We do get pretty tired but in the end it always looks really good,” she said. “They give us a fair amount of breaks so we can also bond and go over the choreography.”
When it’s time to get on stage during the Calgary Stampede, it’s a whole new world from the rehearsals, said Murray.
“It’s a little overwhelming because there are so many people in the stands and on the ground super close to the stage,” she said. “People come from all over the world to watch our show.”
Other Okotoks performers include dancers Shelly Murray, 15, Isis Macdonald, 15, and Taylor Atkinson, 15, and singers Georgia Pugh, 14, and Jack Leathwaite, 12.