Gravenhurst Dancer Selected To Compete At 2025 Dance World Cup

Gravenhurst dancer Ollie MacDonald
Ollie MacDonald on stage at a Shooting Stars Dance Competition. Photo courtesy of Just 4 Kicks Academy of Dance

A team of judges has selected a 16-year-old dancer from Gravenhurst to represent Canada and compete at the Dance World Cup in Europe next year.

Ollie MacDonald, who is nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns, has been dancing for 13 years. They’ve worked with Wendy Laidlaw, owner and artistic director at Just 4 Kicks Academy of Dance, for their entire dance career. They are one of about 80 competitive dancers at the studio, but the only one competing in the elite division. The judges selected Ollie to represent Canada at the world level for open/contemporary dance at a recent competition in Barrie.

“The Canadian team is put together by the best of the best choreographers, mostly out of Toronto,” Laidlaw said. “The judges will choose these kids from all over Ontario to skip the audition for the Canadian team.”

Ollie is a dancer whose performance quality, musicality and control draw in audiences, she said, so she was flooded with emotions when she heard the news. On top of working with Ollie since they were just three, she also taught their four siblings and has gotten to know the family well over the years. 

Seeing her students grow and succeed is rewarding and emotional. Laidlaw is putting on her 26th recital this year, and it’s always gratifying to see her students’ efforts pay off.

Ollie MacDonald with their letter inviting them to the World Performers Canada National Dance Team
Ollie MacDonald with their letter inviting them to the World Performers Canada National Dance Team. Photo courtesy of Just 4 Kicks Academy of Dance

“Just to see somebody put so much hard work into something and it be rewarded, for me, it was a sense of pride,” she said, “and for them as well, just to acknowledge the blood, sweat and tears that goes into what they sacrifice as teenagers.”

And the sacrifices aren’t over for Ollie. In preparation for the competition, they will travel back and forth to Toronto for extra rehearsals on top of their regular dance practice. It’s a big commitment for their last year of high school, but it means getting to work with top choreographers and other dancers from World Performers Canada.

“Every opportunity that Ollie gets to work with a professional choreographer is setting that pace for the professional world,” Laidlaw said.

As the competition approaches, the studio will be doing some fundraising to help ensure Ollie and their loved ones can get to Europe next year. Some locals have already stepped up to sponsor the trip and others will have the chance to support by making a donation at the studio’s upcoming recital from June 7 to 9.

The location for 2025 hasn’t been announced yet, but this year’s Dance World Cup is happening in Prague. Laidlaw hopes to tag along for the trip, but first and foremost is making sure Ollie has no problem getting overseas next year.

“All of the teachers are very proud of Ollie,” Laidlaw said. “We just want to make sure this happens [and] get them to Europe.”

Ollie’s mom Becky has adored watching her five children dance over the years. Some of them have ventured into other interests, but dancing gave them all a sense of self-confidence, the ability to work well with others and a way to express their creativity.

It’s precious to her to see them do things they’re passionate about, and sometimes she gets to witness them doing those things alongside each other. About six years ago, all of her children were dancing at the studio, so Laidlaw put together a number that featured the five of them dancing together.

“It was pretty magical to watch them all on stage, and to have the gift of the video of that and just be able to go back and look at that throughout our lives is pretty neat,” Becky said. “It actually embodies the relationship they have because my kids are all close with each other.”

Becky and two of Ollie’s sisters came out to the competition where they heard the news, and the rest of the family was just a phone call away. Becky said the siblings are always excited for each other in their successes, so it was another chance to celebrate.

With a family of seven, they’re not sure how many of them will be able to accompany Ollie next year, especially since two of their siblings are in post-secondary. Regardless, the family pride for their achievements is strong.

Ollie MacDonald. Photo courtesy of Candance

Becky can’t help but cry and beam with pride when Ollie shows their talents on stage. She’s going to be sad when they complete their time as a student dancer, but she can’t wait to see where they go in their career. While she knows the work will be substantial for Ollie, she also knows they’re up to the task.

“They are hoping to pursue dance after secondary school, so it’s another step towards that goal,” she said. “It’s good on their resume and so it’s a great opportunity that they’ve happened to get to help them hopefully be able to attend the school they want for dance.”

Ollie said having their family behind them the whole way has been amazing. Their siblings know dance and understand the opportunities they’re getting, so their support means that much more.

“I’m so happy to have as much support as I do, and I really do care about every single person in my life who has supported me since I’ve been a little kid, especially Wendy, my dance teacher,” they said. “She’s been supporting me the whole trip.”

As Ollie approaches their 17th birthday in July and their last year of high school in the fall, they’re nervous but excited to start rehearsals. The bonds they’ve built at the studio feel like family, so they’re looking forward to being part of another team.

The initial shock of hearing the news has grown into excitement for Ollie. The best part of the competition is that it gives them a chance to represent their small studio, perform in front of thousands of people and show how much they love dance.

“I’m really, really excited,” Ollie said. “I’ve never been more appreciative of the opportunities that I have, even in a small town like Gravenhurst.”



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