Steppin’ Out Dancers step up for the arts

Kimberley’s Steppin’ Out Dancers have donated an incredible amount of funds to help the arts

Kimberley's Steppin' Out Dancers are huge supporters of the arts.

Kimberley's Steppin' Out Dancers are huge supporters of the arts.

MIKE REDFERN

For the Bulletin

The Kimberley Steppin’ Out Dancers, formed in 1984 and a long-time member group of Kimberley Arts Council, decided in 2001 to put on a variety show to showcase the creative talents of women in the community and ‘A Lillith Affair’ was born.

The brainchild of Diane Manson, ‘A Lillith Affair’ was created as a way for the dance troupe to raise funds for the arts council, an obligation of KAC member groups that was usually fulfilled at that time by helping out at bingo sessions at the former Cranbrook Bingo Hall. Not wanting to spend time in a smoky bingo hall, the ladies preferred instead to use their own dancing talents in combination with performances by other female performers to entertain Kimberley women in an annual show that would raise funds for the arts council.

In 2014 the Steppin’ Out Dancers produced the 14th annual ‘A Lillith Affair’ show at Centre 64 and brought their total donations to community organizations over that period to $52,900. While most of that, $42,700, has gone to the Kimberley Arts Council, including $22,000 to the Centre 64 Expansion & Renovation project, other community arts and social welfare organizations have benefited, too.

Kimberley Summer Theatre has received a $5,000 donation, the Clearview campaign received $3,000, $1,200 has been donated to the Cranbrook Women’s Transition House, and two dance scholarships of $500 each have been awarded.

–At Centre 64 the Steppin’ Out Dancers recent donations have paid for replacement of the worn carpet on the stairs from the stage door to the theatre, a new door to the Green Room, and the beautiful wrought iron gate to the Centre 64 courtyard designed and constructed by Kimberley sculptor Tony Austin.

All these donations have been made possible by the steadily increasing popularity of ‘A Lillith Affair’. This all-women show for women has grown from a single night’s performance in each of  2001 and 2002, to two nights each year from 2003 to 2010, since when it has played for three nights each year. Tickets are always at a premium with Friday and Saturday night shows always sold out. Audiences don’t know who they are going to see on stage other than the Steppin’ Out Dancers themselves, as the cast list is always kept secret. And until the dress rehearsal, the organizers often don’t know what the acts are going to be, either. They just know who is going to perform and trust that all the performers will bring their best game to the show. So far, that has proved to be almost 100% successful. While some performers such as Up The Creek Divas and Four In A Chord have returned for repeat appearances, each year several newcomers are introduced to the show, often for their debut stage performances.

The Steppin’ Out Dancers themselves always play a major role in the show. The ladies have been performing longer than some of them care to remember. They started 30 years ago as a group of 7dancers performing the Can Can for a conference at the Kimberley Ski Hill. Kathy Clarke and Nora and Laurie Few had dance training and taught the others in the group. Over the years the troupe increased in size to a maximum of 12 members, new ones joining as others left. Presently there are 11active members, Diane Manson, Veronica Paauw, Linda Douglas, Wendy Nowicki, Delia Christianson, Lorie Pasiechnyk, Cynthia Peacosh, Stephanie Chale, Mary Doris Shewan, Cheryl Olsen, and founding member Kathy Clarke. Until her untimely death last year, Debbie Blais was an honorary member, a popular songstress appearing in ‘A Lillith Affair’ on several occasions. Past members include Cathy Murphy, Nora McLeod, Laurie Few, Heather Ney, Lynne Foxgord, Sheila Lucas, Lorraine Anderson, Dodi Dube, Betty Ann Helland, Molly Bradford, Shirley Patterson, and others.

The troupe was invited to perform in the BC pavilion at Expo 86 and developed some Bavarian and Western folk dances for the occasion. For 8 to 10 years, no one seems to remember exactly how many, the dancers appeared annually at the Spokane German American Club’s Octoberfest celebration, performing their signature Can Can and Bavarian folk dances. They have competed in a Can Can competition in Rossland and have supported many community events in Kimberley with their Can Can and other dances. Nowadays ‘A Lillith Affair’ is the troupe’s major annual event, with each year’s show presenting a different theme. In 2014 the theme was a tribute to Debbie Blais.

The Steppin’ Out Dancers have committed to a15th show in 2015 to continue their charitable donations to community arts and social organizations for another year and to offer Kimberley women another opportunity to celebrate their talents as dancers, singers, actors, musicians, and, when they can find them, comedians. As Kathy Clarke says, “We plan one year at a time.” There are hundreds of Kimberley women who hope that those years continue to accumulate.