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Ottawa’s top young dancers get ready to perform in charity fundraiser

By Alejandro Bustos on February 24, 2014



Some of Ottawa’s most talented young dancers will perform this Friday to raise money for children’s cancer support programs.

A joint collaboration between 11 local amateur studios, three professional companies and special guest dancers, Dancers Give Back Ottawa is part of a growing movement to foster social change through dance.

Interestingly, the inspiration to help the wider community stems from competition between U.S. and Canadian dancers.

“Dance is a particularly competitive industry, and even with teens they regularly compete,” says Jessica Shaw, an organizer of Dancers Give Back Ottawa and an instructor at Leeming Danceworks dance studio in Orleans.

At a competition in New York City last year, Shaw spoke with Ali Dietz about the original Dancers Give Back, which Ali formed with her mother Mary Alice Dietz in 2008  in Buffalo, New York.  The first event was originally planned to help Ali’s friend Jacquie Hirsch, who was suffering from leukemia, pay for her medical bills.

Tragically, Jacquie died at the young age of 23 before the first event took place.  Following her death, however, Dancers Give Back has become an annual event in the Buffalo area, as well as spreading to Dallas and Ottawa.  To date, all of the fundraising events have raised more than $200,000 for cancer research.

The event on Friday will take place at the Algonquin Commons Theatre at 7:30 pm, and will be the first Dancers Give Back fundraiser ever to be held in Canada.  Tickets are $25 and can be bought online or at the door.  Proceeds will go to Candlelighters, a local charity that provides support services and financial assistance to families who are coping with childhood cancer.

About 65 children are diagnosed each year with cancer in the National Capital Region, according to Candlelighters.  The work they do is thus definitely needed.

The Ottawa performance, meanwhile, will not only raise funds for a good cause, it will also showcase the amazing dance talent in the National Capital Region.  (The dancers at Friday’s show will range in age from about 15 to 23 years old).

“People who come are going to be surprised by the level of talent that Ottawa has,” says Shaw.  “People always expect it from cities like New York or Toronto, but so many great dancers have come out of Ottawa.”

What is also impressive is how quickly the local dance community can come together.  Earlier this summer, for instance, local young dancers got together to make a video collaboration (see bel0w).


Having worked together on this video project, Ottawa’s dance community once again came together for this week’s perfomrnace.  Every single studio and company who was asked to participate in Dancers Give Back, says Shaw, responding with a “yes”.

“We all know each other.  We see each other all the time [through competitions],” she adds.  “So this has brought us more together.”