By Tyler Lowey, Times Reporter
Long nights spent rocking the TransAlta stage paid off for a pair of local performing artists.
Following the 11 performances each night at the Calgary Stampede with the Young Canadians as junior dancers, locals Saige Aleman and Hailey Blokland auditioned and successfully made the intermediate program in the Young Canadians program.
“I was really excited when I found out that I made the intermediate program,” said Aleman. “I know it’s a very well-known program and there were a lot of kids auditioning, so I was grateful to find out I was selected for the program.”
The feeling was the same for Blokland.
“I was jumping up and down when I found out that I made it,” said Blokland. “I wasn’t screaming out loud, but I was screaming on the inside.”
Auditions took place a few weeks after the craziness of the Stampede subsided. Since then, the non-stop lifestyle of being a member of the intermediate program is making the junior program look like a cakewalk.
The intermediate song and dance group train and perform nearly all year round, as opposed to the six months of commitment they did last year with the junior program.
“We are very busy, to say the least,” said Hailey Blokland’s mother, Kristina.
A new season of performances kicked off Nov. 2, with the WE Day Benefit concert at the Bella Concert Hall in Calgary.
Part of the excitement the Young Canadians enjoyed while performing at the Stampede was sharing a stage with Canadian recording legend Jann Arden. As Hailey and Saige progress through the Young Canadians, the list of celebrities and singers only continues to grow. The latest performer they shared the stage with was Jocelyn Alice, a Calgarian-born singer and songwriter who performed with the girls at WE Day.
From there, the Strathmore duo performed at the Optimist Festive Showcase Nov. 29 at the Jubilee Auditorium. They enjoyed the opportunity to share the stage with showbands from Calgary, different choirs from the city and even the Heebee-Jeebees.
“When we go out and perform as a group, everyone feeds off of each other and the adrenaline gets you going and more excited to perform,” said Hailey.
The Christmas season is always a busy one, as the Young Canadians cranked out a few more performances this past month.
Nearly one month ago, on Dec. 9, the Young Canadians helped put on the Dave Kelly Live Christmas Special at the Jubilee. This time, the pair of local dancers shared the stage with Canadian country music legend Paul Brandt for an evening of entertainment. Even Canadian international hockey legend Hailey Wickenheiser made an appearance.
“The Dave Kelly show was my favourite so far,” said Aleman. “It was our first chance to perform with the newcomers of the program. It was also amazing to meet Paul Brandt because I am a huge country fan.”
“Depending on the schedule coming up with the shows they have planned, the girls are often gone anywhere from four to seven days a week practicing for their shows,” said Kristina Blokland. “They put a lot of work in and I’m proud of their commitment to the program and how well they have performed.”
As an early Christmas present, the Young Canadians released their first music video of the season Christmas Eve, when they recorded their own version of Little Drummer Boy.
These days, Aleman, 12 and Hailey, who turns 13 Jan. 18, are laying low at home and recovering during their two-week break over the holiday season.
Not too much lying around though, as the two girls, along with Lane Habing, 11, also train two days a week with the Alberta Ballet in Calgary.
Habing performed with the two other girls during the Stampede, but did not make the intermediate program. It is expected she will try out for the junior program in the new year.
Once the program resumes action in 2018, the Young Canadians will begin working on another music video, prep for another big spring show and then fully embrace another hectic Stampede season with 11 shows on the docket.