BY ALIZA GRAHAM / Dagligtale Staff Writer
Every year the Camrose community is flooded with visitors from all over the province because of dance festival season, which is held annually at the Jeanne and Peter Lougheed Performing Arts Centre. The Lougheed Centre has a huge draw of people from studios as far south as Lethbridge and as far north as Fort McMurray. The tourism brought into Camrose through dance festivals is enormous and highly beneficial for the community. In an interview with the Lougheed Centre Managers, Nick Beach and Tanya Pattullo, regarding the upcoming dance festival season this spring, some of the successes and challenges of dance season were discussed. We further talked about how these challenges are being managed, and the changes being made to accommodate and coordinate dance festival season and make this year a success. Overall, from the Lougheed perspective, dance season has a very positive impact on the campus and greater Camrose community.
When asked what makes for a successful dance festival, Beach responded that a festival that attracts a lot of people to the campus and community is important. In addition, he noted that the length and size of the festival are significant and the Lougheed Centre wants a long festival with longer days, and for everything to be well organized and run smoothly. Pattullo added that scheduling is essential in making a dance festival successful. The dance companies that are doing the festivals have been with the Lougheed Centre for a number of years now and have developed a good rhythm, routine, and structure with which they run. Any changes being made now are the minute tweaks because by now most everyone knows what they are doing. Beach said the Lougheed Centre is not making any major changes this year.. Pattullo explained that scheduling is a constant, not a change; the most important thing for managing scheduling is to pay attention to and keep constant awareness of everything going on.
Pattullo noted that dance season occurs at the perfect time of year because it is not typical tourist season, and so it is nice to be able to bring money into the community during what Pattullo describes as “shoulder season”, which is February through May. The economic impact for Camrose is huge, as dance festival season generates revenue and that revenue is used throughout the year to do a great amount of outreach and free programming events. It has become a sort of micro industry now; in an economic impact study from 2017 it was found that the Lougheed Centre dance festivals had an estimated economic impact of $4,463,257.82.
Managing parking and scheduling have been the key challenges in the past. Beach explained that the Lougheed Centre has been working with festival organizers to manage peak moments. There is a cycle they like to talk to festivals about, in which they hold small solos, duets, and groups interspersed with large groups to create variation and more control over the amount of people who are on campus and in the building at a certain time. Beach says they have learned a lot over the years and have had lots of discussions to improve the management of peak moments, which has helped immensely to control parking challenges.
Pattullo highlighted that they work to manage and organize these challenges with the festivals because they take pride in their building and their relationship with Augustana. Beach does note that the most that these festivals will affect students is with parking, and to that he says: “You should feel happy to be inconvenienced. From a greater community perspective, being inconvenienced means that the community is benefitting from something going on and that is a great problem.” Beach’s advice to anyone who is wondering what is going on and why there are so many people on campus is to just come and check it out, walk through the lobby and see for yourself. It is a very high level dancing and it is amazing to see all of these people who are here and appreciate the event.
To conclude our interview, I asked Beach and Pattullo what their favorite thing about dance festival season is and they agreed that seeing all the kids on campus is wonderful. It is great how all these visitors are being drawn here for something other than being a student, and that the end result is they realize what a great place this is to be. It is also a joy to see how the dancers use the space, revealing the value and potential of the space because that is what it was built for, and the dance festivals really push the space to its limits. Overall, dance festival season shows the Lougheed Centre at its glory, and creates opportunity and activity in the Camrose community.