ATA News

East Side Dance Festival celebrates 10th anniversary with award win

A group of dancers on stage

Organized by teacher–volunteers, the East Side Dance Festival celebrated its tenth anniversary this year by hosting a three-day dance festival, awarding over $100,000 in scholarships to Calgary Board of Education (CBE) and Calgary Catholic School District (CCSD) students, and winning the City of Calgary Community Achievement in the Arts Award. 

The East Side Dance Festival Society was formed in 2013 by four Calgary high school teachers with the original goal of providing performance opportunities for marginalized youth. Now, 10 years later, the festival has grown to serve schools from across the city of Calgary (from both the CBE and CCDS) with 13 participating schools and 400 student participants in 2023. 

The society provides a two-day teacher professional development conference, free after-school programs for schools where students do not have access to dance education, bursaries and scholarships for students, two days of workshops for participating schools, funding for participating schools to hire diverse artists and a three-day festival. Each year, the East Side Dance Festival showcases the incredible talent and passion of public-school teachers and their students. 

Recognizing student excellence, for the 2023 festival, the Society collaborated with their community partners (Decidedly Jazz Danceworks, illFX Education, Pulse Dance Studios, Dance Code, The Masses, UV Soul, Soul Connexion, and Madhuban Performing Arts) to award over $100,000 in scholarships to students. These scholarships allow students to continue their dance training outside of their high-school dance programs and provide them with experience and mentorship within the professional dance industry in Calgary. Also facilitating students’ pursuit of dance beyond high school is the society’s new ESDF+ project, a collaboration with the University of Calgary that aims to introduce high school students to post-secondary opportunities in dance.

To top off their anniversary year, the society’s teacher–volunteers were awarded the City of Calgary’s Community Achievement in the Arts Award for 2023. The teacher volunteers are thrilled to receive this recognition.

“We’ve been on a real journey over the past ten years. Everyone involved in our organization, the teachers, our community partners and our students, have demonstrated incredible resilience, creativity, and dedication to keeping the East Side Dance Festival alive and well. We have so much to celebrate and so much to look forward to,” says Kelly Brownlee, co-chair of the Society. 

Run by volunteer teachers from the CBE and CSSD, the East Side Dance Festival represents a unique collaboration of passionate teachers from different school boards, with 18 teachers from 14 schools participating during the 2022/23 season.

If you are a dance teacher in Alberta and are interested in participating in East Side Dance Festival programming, please reach out to Kelsey McMahon-Stoker ( or Kelly Brownlee ( ❚

East Side Dance Festival Society
Instagram @eastsidedanceyyc

Dancers on a stage
Dancers on a stage