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Polar Performing Arts Gala set for June 18 at Vanier Hall

In one form or another, students in Polar Performing Arts bring their passions to the stage. They are dancers, they are musicians, they are voice artists, and many have already displayed their talents under the heat of provincial spotlights.

On the night of Tuesday, June 18, these talented teens will put on a showcase for a home audience during the Polar Performing Arts Gala 2019. The curtain will go up at 6:30 p.m. at Vanier Hall and the spectators will be in for a treat.

“It’s a celebration,” said Prince George Secondary School teacher/counsellor Mary LaMarre, who leads the Polar Performing Arts program.

“There’s a big range of things and everything is student-centred. So they pick their own lighting and they pick their own backdrop for what they want it to sound like. And they might have had to edit their own music. They have to decide everything. Like, ‘How are we getting the piano on?’ and ‘How are we getting this off?’ So it’s not just the performance, it’s putting together the whole thing as well.”

One of the many highlights of the gala will be a group dance number from the musical The Producers. The students involved performed the piece earlier this year at the Prince George Dance Festival and then gave a golden rendition at provincials.

“It was a group of our Performing Arts kids and they picked that they wanted to do that piece (at the gala),” LaMarre said. “It’s been choreographed by Kristen Helfrich, who is an actual choreographer. So we’ll see something from that level that’s quite polished. They’ve performed and competed and won at B.C. Annual Dance Festival for overall variety group.”

The Polar Performing Arts program sees students attend performing arts classes at PGSS. They use that time to work on their dance routines, musical endeavours or speech arts pieces and earn credits toward high school graduation.

The program – operational for about five years – originated out of discussions between LaMarre and PGSS Principal Kap Manhas.

“What we were finding, when Kap and I first met about doing this, is that around Grade 10 lots of high-achieving performing arts kids don’t have the time to put in,” LaMarre said.

“They’re really academic kids but they don’t have the time so one thing has to give, and we don’t want them to have to give up one because there are lots of things that show that having the arts piece is really healthy, for one, but also contributes to success in academics and the other way around. So we wanted them to be able to have that balance.”

Most of the students in Polar Performing Arts attend PGSS but some are from other schools in the district. Due to the limited capacity of the program, students must apply for acceptance. Typically, they range from Grade 10 to Grade 12.

Graduates of the program include dancer Tristan Ghostkeeper, who has gone on to perform nationally and internationally, singer and Limelight Quest contest winner Vanessa Wittstruck, and musician Malcolm Conat (Malcolm.Harold), whose song Day One is available for purchase online and can also be found on YouTube (

Tickets for the Polar Performing Arts Gala are $10 each. They can be purchased in advance at the PGSS Counselling Centre and will also be available at the door on the night of the show.

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