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Dancers united for hope

Every mother wants her child to be admired and cherished by the outside world. But Shari VanderWoude had no idea her baby would grow so big. Six years ago, the St.

Every mother wants her child to be admired and cherished by the outside world. But Shari VanderWoude had no idea her baby would grow so big.

Six years ago, the St. Albert resident founded Stars of Hope, a benefit dance performance, on the wings of a prayer. Her mother, Doreen Forsen, an elementary school teacher had just died of stomach cancer and VanderWoude wanted to give something back in her name.

As owner of the Edmonton-based studio Dance Theme, she rallied the dance community and about 400 dancers showed up to perform. Five years later, Stars of Hope has generated $155,000 for local charities.

This year in its largest production yet, 734 dancers are hoofing it across the Jubilee Auditorium stage at the sixth annual Stars of Hope tomorrow.

VanderWoude hopes to raise another $50,000 for Kids With Cancer that will be directed towards the society’s 30 programs dealing with emotional, clinical and child specific research.

“The audience has definitely grown and they come to expect it. And a lot of student dancers are excited about the event. It’s non-competitive and it’s a great event for them,” explains VanderWoude.

The two-hour-plus program highlights tap, jazz, ballet, musical theatre and contemporary dance. For the first time ever the Guoseng Art Ensemble, a Chinese troupe joins the show. “We’re so excited to see them. They are definitely bringing a new and different cultural aspect.”

VanderWoude’s own studio is jumping into the rabbit hole with a musical theatre piece, Alice in Wonderland. “We planned it because we knew Alice was coming out [in theatres]. But we had no idea it would be released the same weekend as our performance.”

From St. Albert and Morinville, the dance ambassadors are DanceCo, Art of Dance, St. Albert Ballet Academy and Dance Connection. DanceCo performs American Bandstand, a whirling dervish of 28 jazz dancers from ages eight to 18 years.

Art of Dance puts on Jai Ho, a vibrant Bollywood style character ballet with music from Slumdog Millionaire. “It’s very high energy, very colourful with authentic costumes bought at the sari shop,” says Art of Dance founder Sherri Urkow.

St. Albert Ballet dances a neoclassical work Everything I Do, accompanied by singer Katherine Jenkins and guitarist Bryan Adams. “It was created for St. Albert Celebrates the Arts,” artistic director Sophia Leong says.

And finally Morinville’s Dance Connection performs a contemporary number titled Control. “Everyone has something different and exciting to offer,” VanderWoude concludes.

“The dance community doesn’t get a lot of outside help. It truly is a project of the heart.”

Preview

6th annual Stars of Hope<br />Saturday March 6 at 7 p.m.<br />Jubilee Auditorium<br />11455 - 87 Ave.<br />Tickets: $23.50 Call 780-451-8000 or online at www.ticketmaster.ca


Anna Borowiecki

About the Author: Anna Borowiecki

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