Our Mandate: To create an inclusive community where diversity, creativity, growth and inspired life-long learning are celebrated through the art of dance.

The Model:

  • Foster Open-mindedness towards diversity regardless of economic demographic or access to formal training in dance. 
  • Remove barriers for youth to participation; such as access to professionals and financial constraints
  • Model respect for all, enabling healthy and meaningful human relationships through dance
  • Create a safe environment that promotes inclusivity, risk taking – and supporting a growth mindset
  • Collaborate with CBE and CSSD dance teachers and local dance professionals.

Our Mission: We are worthy participants in an encompassing dance community which help young dancers explore and engage skills and attributes considered valuable in the working world and essential to the holistic development of young people. Youth will utilize performing arts to empower themselves within their community, culture and become life-long learners.


In January of 2012, four high school dance teachers realised something was missing from fine and performing arts programming within the Calgary Board of Education and the Calgary Catholic School District.  Just as there is a city wide Drama festival we also wanted a platform for our students to perform, make connections with their peers and receive training and workshops from the top professionals who work and perform in our city. And so the East Side Dance Festival was born. East Side Dance Festival Society’s original mandate was to foster positive relationships with potentially at- risk youth, build community and create connections and opportunities for our students after high school. The majority of the student participants at that time did not have the means to take dance classes outside of school. This is why the dance programs that are offered through the public and Catholic systems are so important.

For many of our students this festival is the highlight of their year and their dance classes that they take every day at their high schools are the reason many of them attend school.  Since then our mandate has changed to a focus on inclusivity, celebrating diversity, building healthy relationships, removing financial barriers and empowering youth through the fine and performing arts. East Side Dance Festival is not only a celebration of dance but also of our students’ resilience, strength and diversity. Our first festival started eight years ago with only three schools and was hosted at Bishop McNally High School. Decidedly Jazz Dancewords and illFX came on board right away and Joanne Baker and Katherine Burrowes acted as our first adjudicators. Eventually our festival became too big to be hosted at any of the participating high schools and we moved to the Boyce Theatre on the Stampede grounds.  When the new DJD building was built the company was very generous to allow us to host the festival in their theatre and we were able to add a day of dance workshops for the students. Now we are proud to be partnering with the University of Calgary Theatre and their School of Creative and Performing Arts.

 This year the festival has grown to two days of workshops, eleven participating schools, and thanks to a generous grant from the Calgary Arts Development Association; over $10 000 in scholarships and bursaries will be awarded to deserving CBE and CSSD students. It is safe to say that we have come a long way from the days where we the teachers hand made the trophies and certificates. As the original team of teachers that helped launch this festival; we are so proud of what it has become and we are excited for the future.  We hope you enjoy this season’s performances.

What young dancers are saying!

East Side has been huge in my life. The workshops and performances helped me grow as a dancer. I now am attending the U of C BA/BEd dance program.

~Emily Houghton, 2019

What makes East Side special is that it gives a platform for young people to dance regardless of their size, sex, race, income or physical limitations.

~Eshaan Sharma 2019

I was afraid to perform until I went to the workshops with students like me from so many schools. It was an incredible experience I will never forget.

~Abby Bounds, 2018

Let’s make dance magic!