Eastwood Collegiate Institute students are practicing their pirouettes, sharpening their vocal chops, and adding the final brush strokes in anticipation of the school’s annual gala next weekend.
The arts event, entitled Heighten the Contrast, runs November 21 and 22 and features music, dance, drama, and a juried art show. The focus of the show is to merge the different art disciplines.
Students from Woolwich and Wellesley who attend the Kitchener school for its integrated arts program have been eagerly preparing to show off their talents.
Kaelin Isserlin, a dance major from Elmira, says they have to submit three pieces to the gala each year, but he’s glad to participate.
“I really do it just to get myself out there, just to be able to show my art,” Isserlin said. “It’s a great experience, great for your resume.”
Christina Rorai-McNeil, a vocal and drama major with a minor in dance from St. Jacobs, said she’s always been interested in the arts, and coming to ECI was the best choice to further her passion.
“Even in Grade 6 I started thinking about it because I really wanted to pursue what I love to do,” Rorai-McNeil said.
She thinks the gala is important because many people don’t realize how much effort they put into certain areas they’re interested in.
Miranda Elliott, also from St. Jacobs, is a vocal and drama major with a minor in dance. She said she chose ECI because she wanted to grow as a performer and a person.
“It’s been really amazing being surrounded by people who love doing the same thing as you and encourage you to do it even if it’s not as widely accepted other places,” Elliott. “It was such a huge change for me experiencing high school in this way.”
The ninth grader will also be singing in the school’s choir at the gala, along with Rorai-McNeil.
For Isserlin, these types of events are important because often the arts are pushed aside in exchange for math and science courses in high school.
“Being able to share the arts and get involved community-wise, be able to show family and friends, it’s nice to get out there,” Isserlin said.
After high school, he’d like to go to the Ontario College of Art and Design to study illustration. As an avid cartoon watcher in his childhood, he said he wants to be able to make children feel how he did when he watched cartoons. He will have a piece of artwork displayed in the gala because his dance class isn’t until next semester.
“It’s great because we’re part of a community that loves the arts,” Isserlin said. “I think being able to work with people who like what you’re doing and also the teachers help you get to know yourself. I’ve learned so much about myself and my artistic abilities just being here.”
He added the gala is a good chance for curious students to see the kinds of art they can pursue and improve upon through an arts program. The eleventh grader said he would have liked to have gone when he was in Grade 9.
Elliott said it’s great to be able to do what you love in an environment that supports you, and while she loves musical theatre she’s not sure what she wants to do after high school. She agrees with Isserlin that the gala could help expose potential students to what they could be studying.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for people to see what we’re actually doing with the extra stuff we have at this school,” Elliott said. “Especially for kids to be aware that that’s an option because I didn’t know for the longest time there was a school that would help me do that, and there is.”
Rorai-McNeil would like to pursue music after high school like her brother did. The Grade 9 student says she’s become a much more confident person in just two months from singing in front of her vocal class, and she can already see improvement.
“It’s really cool to show people what we can do,” Rorai-McNeil said.
The gala will be held at ECI on November 21 and 22 at 7 p.m. There will also be a Saturday matinee at 1 p.m.. Tickets are $12 each. Tickets for the gala will be on sale November 17-19 from 2:30-5:30 p.m. at the school and then one hour before each show.