Unity dancer to open the Canada Winter Games

Unity will have athletes participating in the upcoming Canada Winter Games in Red Deer Feb.15 to March 23. Unity will also have representation in local dancer Presli O’Donnell, who will be part of the dance team performing at the opening ceremonies. 

O’Donnell’s father, Brent, learned about the Canada Games opening ceremonies auditions on the radio near the end of summer, so offered to take her. She was also encouraged by her dance instructors knowing it would look amazing on her resume, as well as be a once in lifetime, fun experience.

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O’Donnell attended auditions in late September with three sets of tryouts that included approximately 100 dancers at each set. She was excited to learn she had been invited to the call back session.

After some anxious weeks of waiting, O’Donnell learned in early November that she was chosen to not only be part of the Canada Winter Games dance cast, but was also picked to be part of the select Red Team. 

The Red Team is a group of 12 dancers who have an extra dance with their group, as well as additional part in other performance features of the opening ceremonies.  

In response to how she feels about this honour, O’Donnell replies, “I am thrilled to be a member of the opening ceremonies, the Red Team as well as being chosen to perform a tap solo on the main stage later in the weekend, making the CWG opportunity and experience even more exciting and special.”

Not only is it exciting to be selected to for this Canada Winter Games experience, there is the added bonus of performing backup for some famous country musicians who are performing at the opening ceremonies. While O’Donnell is not allowed to release details, she knows that it will be an energetic event to be part of, while showcasing Canadian pride. 

O’Donnell has been dancing since she was very young and has danced all over Canada and the USA, but never in front of this many people for such a highly publicized event, as well as being televised. 

Prior to group rehearsals, dancers were required to practice using videos and diagrams. They began group rehearsals Jan. 12 and 13.

She continues to rehearse on her own until they meet again for some long rehearsal days the week of CWG, starting Feb. 12 to 15 when they hit the stage at 7 p.m. to get the games started.  

O’Donnell welcomes familiar faces in this dance group who she met while dancing in Alberta Ballet School as a 12 year old, as well as other familiar faces she has competed with over the years.

The choreographer is well known as she choreographs the Grey Cup dance routines, and her son danced with O’Donnell this summer in Kelowna, B.C. The competitive dance world is really quite small. Familiar faces are quite common at this type of event. 

Selection for this dance team puts O’Donnell once again into a higher end of self discipline and organizational mode as, on top of her last semester of Grade 12, she will participate in 18 competitive dances this season at Dance Connection in North Battleford. She is busy preparing to compete in early spring. She also teaches group classes every Wednesday evening, as well as choreographs and cleans solos for young dancers.

O’Donnell says, “Yes, I am super busy, but wouldn’t have it any other way.”

O’Donnell was recently accepted into the Broadway Dance Centre elite professional semester in New York and plans to move there to continue her dance training in August of 2019 for this one semester program. 

Her family plans to watch some of the hockey and any other Canada Games events they can catch on the Friday and Saturday, hoping that they may even get to see some of the Unity athletes competing.     It’s great that O’Donnell has friends and family in Red Deer to come cheer her on.


You can watch the opening ceremonies on CTV Feb. 15, as well as some select sports channels. To follow Team Sask results throughout the games you can check on the Team Sask Face book page or www.teamsask.ca website. There you will also find a link to the Canada Winter Games website.

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