A number of dancers come to the Quesnel Festival of the Performing Arts (QFPA) from other towns, trying to earn a spot in the provincial competition. It’s not very often that one of Quesnel’s dancers can say they’ve done the opposite. Gizelle McDonald broke that barrier this spring when she earned one of the spots at provincials up for grabs at the Prince George Dance Festival, earning the spot in the Modern category, her strong suit.
“I thought that I would just go in for fun, and enjoy it,” said Gizelle, 12, not expecting her scores to be so high at the large Prince George event.
She had a similar result at the Evolve Dance Festival in Maple Ridge, where again she took top honours. It makes the trophies and scholarships earned at the QFPA and her own studio’s Gold Pan City Dance Festival feel even more special.
“When I went to the QFPA festival, I thought, since it was my first festival of the year, that I wouldn’t do so well, I would learn more tips to work on later, and that went well, and I applied those to my dance steps in Prince George and I got a pretty high score for that. When I came to the Gold Pan City Dance Festival I applied more corrections, and I thought of them as I danced, so I knew the experience was working,” Gizelle said.
This week, she is off to Penticton to perform two solos at the B.C. Festival of the Performing Arts, and learn even more tips to apply to her dance skills.
“It is Gizelle’s persistence, passion and dedication that have brought her to this moment and we could not be any more proud of her,” said Gold Pan City’s head choreographer Jessie Herman.
Also going on the Penticton trip, just to watch, but that has been working well for her so far, is Gizelle’s sister Zoey McDonald, who is only nine but is already putting strain on the family trophy case, with all the awards she’s been winning at the same festivals.
Together they won the Artistic Performance Award in the Junior Stage category at the QFPA for a duo number they did together, and it also won awards around the province.
“Our duo was really funny. We played grannies who did not like each other,” said Zoey, who thinks she is a much better dancer because of her sister’s example. But there is someone else to whom they both look with admiration.
“I started when I was three years old, same story as my sister, but I saw my mom dance and that inspired me,” said Zoey.
Their mom, Lizaan, is a medical doctor by profession, but dance was always a passion for her and it has rubbed off on both daughters.
“I think I’m a way better dancer than I would have been if my mom hadn’t also been a dancer,” said Gizelle.
The girls rattle off the names of their choreographers in grateful thank-you lists, especially Herman and Samantha Presley, and mom, too, appreciates the level of education they’ve gotten in their chosen activity.
“Gold Pan City Dance has been amazing for the kids,” said Lizaan. “It’s fun to see them evolve through the years, all the passion they have, and all the accomplishments they’re getting. We will be down in Penticton with Gizelle to support her as a family,” along with their father Johannes.
A number of Quesnel performers, including dancers, will also be at the provincials, so they will all be among friends at the annual performing arts showcase.