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Fort Macleod dancers on Yellow Brick Road

Photo by Cindy Gray.

Front row, from left: Jaylene Gustman, Kaelan Shimp, Jillanna Hammond, Cassie Delver and Elin Holmberg. Back row, from left: Kaylee Hedley, Alex Garrett, Hannah Dyck, Danielle Hedley, Janelle Stockton, Kristen Putzi and Kaitlyn Putzi. Photo by Cindy Gray.

A group of girls in a Fort Macleod dance school walked the yellow brick road after an unexpected but golden opportunity came their way.
Twelve girls from Cindy Gray’s Dance were invited to be munchkins and winkies in the Wizard of Oz presentation at the Enmax Centre in Lethbridge on Dec. 14.
Performing in front of 1,500 people after only a week of preparation the girls were awesome, dance school instructor Cindy Gray said.
Gray was behind the scenes during the performance, so didn’t get to watch it herself, but was told by parents in the audience that the girls’ performance came off without a hitch.
“They did great, they did a very good job,” Gray said. “The choreographers said they really knew their stuff.”
The opportunity was the result of one of the bigger Lethbridge dance schools canceling their involvement in the NETworks Presentations production of the famous 1939 movie.
“One of the bigger dance clubs in Lethbridge was going to do it but inexplicably cancelled,” Gray explained.
Looking for replacements, the Enmax came across Gray’s dance school on the Town of Fort Macleod Web site, and gave her a call.
Gray was delighted to accept, but it was pretty short notice. The girls had only a week to get ready. Anxiety was high. But so was excitement.
“They were hyped, they were really excited,” Gray said. “We just had seven days to practice.”
The offer was kind of like a present to Gray.

Photo by Marney Delver.

Back row, from left: Elin Holmberg, Jaylene Gustman, Danielle Hedley, Cassie Delver, Janelle Stockton, Kaylee Hedley, Kaitlyn Putzi and Kaelan Shimp. Front row, from left: Kristen Putzi, Jillanna Hammond, Hannah Dyck and Alex Garrett. Photo by Marney Delver.

“I was extremely excited myself,” she said. “This is my 25th year (with the dance school). It’s kind of like a 25th anniversary present.”
Gray’s job was to have the girls prepared; the troupe’s choreographers were to run them through their parts as munchkins and winkies.
And then that breathless moment when suddenly they were out on stage singing timeless classics like Ding Dong the Witch is Dead, and Follow the Yellow Brick Road in front of 1,500 people.
“They thought they were scared but once they got in the wings ready to go on stage they were fine,” Gray said.
The girls were on tiptoe to share their experience.
“This was an experience I will never forget even in my old age,” said Danielle Hedley, 10, from Fort Macleod. “It was an honour to be in this. I had a lot of fun.”
Her sister Kaylee Hedley, 13, agreed. “It was an unforgettable experience, I’d do it again anytime! It was so much fun.”
“It was amazing to be up there on that huge stage,” said Hannah Dyck, 10, from Fort Macleod. “It was a once in a lifetime experience, one that I will remember forever.” 
“I had a lot of fun, it was awesome. I liked the costumes, and I really liked Toto and Dorothy,” said Alex Garret, 9, from Fort Macleod. “I had a lot of fun being a munchkin and winkie.”
Cassie Delver, 9, who lives south of Fort Macleod on the Centre Trail, was pretty nervous to start out, but then a transformation took place.
“I was really nervous at first, but after a while I was really excited,” Cassie said. “I didn’t want to stop dancing. The best part was when we danced and sang Ding Dong the Witch is Dead.”
Kaelan Shimp, 10, from Granum, was nervous, too.
“I was nervous at the start,” Kaelan said. “But once I got on stage it wasn’t very scary any more.”
“It was cool and amazing,” said Jillanna Hammond, 10, from Pincher Creek. “I loved the costumes and seeing the actors. It was fun and exciting to dance at the Enmax. Toto was really cute.”
Gray speculated that the opportunity could open doors for the girls.
”It was a very tight schedule. They learned what it’s like to be on a professional tour.”

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