Vic High dance students Sayaka Pomeroy

Vic High dance students Sayaka Pomeroy

Platform 61 ready for Performing Arts Festival

Vic High one of 20 schools at Victoria Performing Arts Festival

The kids just want to be on stage. Perhaps some more than others.

Or so class instructor Kerry Krich mentions, as she reminds the students of Vic High’s D block dance class as they hustle through an exhibition of Put Your Hands Up, a three-minute piece they’ve choreographed themselves for the upcoming Greater Victoria Performing Arts Festival.

“More expression on your faces please. You’ve chosen to be in the performing arts, so let’s see it,” says Krich.

Her words are firm but caring.

Vic High’s Platform 61 troupe is made up of 80 dance students from several classes and will do 13 performances over the course of two days, April 23 and 24, at the festival’s School Dance session at the University of Victoria’s Farquhar Auditorium.

Giving up-and-coming or established artists of all types a chance to attempt, hone or perfect their craft in front of an audience is one of the driving motivations behind this month’s festival, which is already underway across the city, until May 11.

It’s the festival’s 86th year, with 15 disciplines represented by Victoria’s performing arts community. Shows run almost daily, with 11 honours concerts and performances that showcase some of the higher caliber performers from the festival’s smaller shows.

New this year is an honours concert for brass, classical guitar, composition and woodwinds on May 2.

But it’s the School Dance Honours Concert on May 7, which uses select performances from April 23 and 24, that has students from 20 Greater Victoria public and private high schools turning up the heat in rehearsal over the next three weeks.

“We’re not always the most technically sound (troupe) but we work hard and have a lot of passion. Mostly we make sure we have fun,” Krich said.

“The big theme of our group is positivity.”

The Vic High students are quite used to having a safe, positive environment in their bright studio overlooking the school’s historical track and rugby pitch. So much so, they still joke about some snobby, Glee-like comments they experienced at last year’s festival.

“The festival can be stressful. Other schools are so competitive and they crush you (with comments), but it’s fun,” said Grade 12 student Mohammed Rashead.

The 20 dancers of D block choreographed Put Your Hands Up specifically for the festival. It’s a favourite of theirs, as it incorporates all sorts of disciplines, ballet, belly dance, hip hop, jazz, Bollywood and more.

But their absolute favourite to rehearse and perform is Happiness, designed in house by Vic High alumnus Ross Wirtanen. The Canadian choreographer is a former student of Krich’s and returns every year to work with Vic High’s dance class. This year he returned for two weeks and worked with the students on Happiness.

“We love Happiness for all the energy and passion we can put into it and the style – the costuming was fun,” Rashead said.

This year’s festival ends with its final honours concert, the Roberto and Mary Wood Scholarship Competition on May 11, 7 p.m. at the Victoria Truth Centre on Fort St.

Performances from all 20 high schools run 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, April 23 and 24.

From there, a selection of shows will take place at the School Dance Honours Concert and Awards, 7 p.m. May 7 at the UVic’s Farquhar Auditorium. Tickets for the School Dance Honours Concert and Awards are $12 for adults and $8 for students, senior and children.

Visit gvpaf.org for a full schedule.