UNITY - Amy Briggs, who lost her mother Vicky Rissling to breast cancer around three years ago, each year enlists the help of others for charitable endeavours in her mother’s name. This year those efforts, with the invaluable assistance of Caprice Sherwood, culminated in a fabulous Christmas gala of dance and music held in the senior gym at Unity Composite High School Dec. 3. A multitude of raffle prizes were handed out at the end of the evening to those whose names were drawn, but all attendees were winners – buoyed up into the Christmas spirit by the efforts of the performers and the joyous energy in the room.
With Briggs having added a dance studio, with Sherwood as studio manager, to her Flourish brand this year, there were plenty of dancers performing at the gala but that was not all.
Crystal Gilbert and Donna Boser Kelly each sang soaring solos, with Boser Kelly accompanied by Cathy Jones on a grand piano. The piano also came out for Emily Goring who played “Imagine” and “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree.” Sadie Risling played prelude and intermission music on a saxophone, and later performed “Just the Two of Us” by Grover Washington.
A unique number was Sensei Jason and Alexa Goring from the Unity Karate-Do showing off their moves in a kata and then a fake fight to the song “Bad Blood.”
Flourish Studio dancers, especially the little ones, gave the audience warm fuzzies, and others came from the surrounding area to show off their own talent. North Battleford, Biggar, Wilkie and Kerrobert were all represented on stage at some point of the evening.
Nostalgic moments for the Unity dance community abounded with Miss Nicole, long-time teacher at the Unity School of Dance, acting as MC for the evening. Nicole Riehl taught Unity dancers for 20 years, and her students included Briggs and Sherwood.
Another one of Riehl’s students was Presli O’Donnell. O’Donnell has moved on to perform and choreograph all over the province and she returned to Unity for the gala, to delight the audience with her tap solo, “Million Reasons.” She also brought her Dance Connection student, Jaya Duffin, who danced a contemporary solo choreographed by O’Donnell, “Rule the World.”
Other solo dance performers were Devyn McLean, tap; Kaitlyn Middleton, lyrical; Jenessa Bakken, tap; Leighton Forbes, lyrical; Tayla Skinner, jazz; Jaelyn Middleton, lyrical; Halle Ducherer, lyrical and tap; Ira Canong, acro; Emily Molberg, modern; and Avery Strus, lyrical. Hanna Wurz and Estella Ambros, from the Sieben School of Dance, completed a contemporary duet to “Hold My Hand.”
Elizabeth Erker, coach of the University of Saskatchewan dance team, came out to dance a lyrical solo and to add a ballet solo to the opening Nutcracker ballet number which involved a total of 20 other dancers of all ages. Sherwood choreographed the piece for the large group of students while Erker designed her own dance.
Riehl choreographed a special tap routine to “Run, Run, Rudolph” for a number of former students. Emily Goring, Lauren Gartner, Brianna Bakken, Madison Wildeman, Devyn McLean and Briggs herself each practised at their own locations, working with Riehl over Zoom sessions.
Proceeds from raffle ticket sales, the 50/50 and cash donations came to a grand total of $6,225. One third of that amount was directed to Secret Santa. Briggs took some of her senior dancers to Red Apple to choose and purchase children’s toys themselves. Almost $1,000 was spent and the remaining funds went to Secret Santa for a head start for next year.
The other $4,000-plus was divided between KidSport and Unity Community Day Care. Ticket and booth sales will be used for competitive costumes for the 2023 dance season and to create the Vicky Rissling bursary to sponsor a dancer next year.