Langley’s Young At Arts picked for Disney gig

For a Langley dance troupe, a trip to Disneyland last month was magical.

The 19 dancers from the Young At Arts Dance Academy performed under the bright lights of Main Street USA, where they were chosen to perform in Disneyland’s Holiday Spectacular.

They rehearsed for about 10 hours for the audition, and once accepted, another 25 hours as a group as well as on their own for about two-to-four hours each week from September to November.

Once they touched down in California, the experience was “magical” for the dancers, all between the ages of 11 and 19, according to Young At Arts artistic director Meghann Turnbull.

On Nov. 7, the first day with Dance the Magic, the Langley dancers spent several hours in hair and makeup, before rehearsal at the Disneyland hotel.  

Once dressed in their costumes, they practised in a giant ballroom along with almost 500 other dancers from across the United States, as Young At Arts was the only Canadian studio that was accepted this year.

After the rehearsal, each group was asked to perform as a studio, and then they were given their parade formation.

The Langley dancers were chosen to lead the entire parade, with four lead girls receiving special instruction on pacing the parade and where and how to lead.

After that, they were led through downtown Disneyland with a full security unit and management staff, with the Young At Arts dancers leading the entire group of almost 500 performers.

“We were escorted into the mysterious ‘backstage’ of the California Adventure Park and positioned to lead the Pixar Play Parade,” Turnbull shared.

The parade stepped off beside the Tower of Terror and ended approximately 20 minutes later across from Paradise Pier.

The Langley dancers were put through their paces, performing the entire parade route without a rest.

“They were true professionals,” Turnbull said. “They had as much energy and performance quality at the end as they did at the start.”

The next morning the dancers went through the same hair and makeup procedure as the day before, but this time they headed directly to the back stage of the Disneyland Park.

After changing into costume and getting some hair and makeup touch-ups, the dancers were brought to the start of the parade route, where they once again led the parade.

This time it was A Christmas Fantasy Parade complete with Mickey Mouse and Minnie, the princesses, and the Frozen characters.  

The parade took them right down Mainstreet USA towards the castle and through the Disneyland Park to Mickey’s Toontown.

To be part of the experience, the Young At Arts dancers had to be enrolled in ballet as well as two or more intensive classes during the 2014/15 dance year. They were also chosen on such intangibles as attitude and effort, not just skills and ability, Turnbull noted.

A positive attitude and strong work ethic as well as being a team player were the most important requirements, Turnbull said.  

“Once our dancers were selected from the studio, they then had to audition for Disneyland; I am proud to say that all of our dancers were accepted immediately,” she added.

Turnbull believes the highlight was dancing down Main Street USA in the Christmas Fantasy Parade, seeing the castle all lit up and sparkling, and knowing that they were a part of the magic.

“For me, it was seeing my dancers work as a team; helping each other out backstage, supporting one another throughout the entire trip and showing professionalism, teamwork and positive attitudes throughout,” she said. “We were a fine-tuned unit, and I was very proud of how our dancers represented both the Young At Arts and Canada at this event.”

On top of performing, the dancers had the enlightening experience of taking workshops with the Disneyland choreographers, as well as at the renowned Edge dance studio in LA.  

“They learned so much from the clinicians and took back lessons that they were then able to share with the rest of the studio once they returned back home,” Turnbull said.

As expected with any live performance, there were a few glitches, but the Langley troupe worked through them.

Turnbull said thanks to the group’s positive attitudes, “we were able to problem solve and work through anything that came up without much discomfort and disruption to our itinerary.”

“It was the most smooth studio trip I have ever experienced,” Turnbull said.  “Thanks to extensive planning by the directors and excellent teamwork while on the trip, we could not have asked for a better experience.”

The dancers from Young at Arts, which was founded in 1987, are looking two years down the road to 2016, when they plan on returning to Disneyland to perform. In the meantime, Turnbull said, the dancers are looking into visiting the Dance the Magic team in New York City, where they will perform on a Broadway stage.

Regardless of the scale, the Young At Arts dancers take every performance seriously.

“We believe that every performance is important and our studio motto is ‘full out, first time, every time, all the time no matter what,’” Turnbull said. “To us, no matter how big or how small, every performance and every performer is equally important and deserves our full effort and attention.”

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