Emma Kowalchuk (family photo).

Penhold sisters on two different professional dance paths

Emma and Olivia Kowalchuk leave home to study ballet

Ken and Kirsten Kowalchuk went from having two energetic dancing daughters in the house to being empty-nesters — all within a space of three days.

Both girls moved out last fall to become full-time resident students at two of Canada’s most prestigious dance schools. Emma Kowalchuk, 16, is studying at the School of Alberta Ballet in Calgary, while her sister Olivia Kowalchuk, 14, is attending the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School, two provinces away.

Their acceptance calls came within the same week last July. “We were in shock,” recalled Ken. “All of a sudden we were losing one kid, and then three days later …” the second call came in and their other daughter was leaving as well.

Related:

Dancers in summer RWB program

Letting them go was a bittersweet decision for Kowalchuks, but they both felt it was important to let Emma and Olivia pursue their dance dreams. Kirsten remembers how much it would have meant to have had the same opportunity when she was a teenager.

“The girls are so excited, and they’ve both worked for this for so long … but, oh my gosh! They are so young to be away from us! It’s definitely been a transition,” said Kirsten, who runs the Penhold School of Dance.

As a mom, she particularly feels their absence. Kirsten said Emma and Olivia have always taken ballet classes with her, and had even been helping her in the studio.

Kirsten now does a lot of Facetime with her daughters. She’s also been putting a lot of mileage on the family vehicle driving to Calgary, and flying to Winnipeg every other month.

Olivia lives in a residence attached to the Royal Winnipeg Ballet studios, and only has a short walk to classes at the University of Winnipeg.

Ken, a communications consultant, reminds her to walk in a group.

His nerves remain frayed at the thought of Emma taking the C-train from the south side of Calgary, where she’s living with her grandparents, to the downtown dance school by 8 a.m. Ken explained, “Here she’s grown up in Penhold, never been on a bus before in her life, and she’s taking a C-train in the big city!”

Besides the emotional roller-coaster this year has been, he admitted it was also a financial challenge — although a partial scholarship from the School of Alberta Ballet has helped.

The situation reminds him of Olympic parents and all they sacrifice. “I guess you don’t think about it … you just get it done,” said Ken, who’s focusing on his daughters having the experience of their lives.

“We couldn’t have done this if Ken and I weren’t on the same page,” said Kirsten, who feels she’s always been realistic about prospects in the dance world.

Since there are no guarantees that either girl will be asked to continue at the ballet schools next year, “I tell them, if it’s only for a year, then you’ve had an amazing year! Learn everything you can.”



lmichelin@reddeeradvocate.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

 

Contributed photo Olivia Kowalchuk in Royal Winnipeg Ballet studio.

Just Posted

Eager-beaver cannabis entrepreneurs already waiting outside Red Deer City Hall

Appications will be accepted on a first-come basis starting on Tuesday

Like father like son: Red Deer area Dreeshen family dedicates life to public service

There are three jobs that could be considered the Dreeshen family business:… Continue reading

Restaurant owner concerned about Gasoline Alley road changes

Nearly 20 trucks were lined up on the service road in front… Continue reading

Preliminary hearings set for two men charged in weapons and drugs bust

A Red Deer man and Sylvan Lake man are facing 80 charges

Eight dogs found in Innisfail hotel room were kept in cages

Eight dogs, kept in cages in a small hotel room in Innisfail… Continue reading

WATCH: Hypnotizing show at Westerner Days

Hynotist and mentalist Joshua Seth performs three times a day at Westerner Days

PHOTOS: River Town Saints rock Red Deer

River Town Saints play Westerner Days Friday in Red Deer

PHOTOS: Dogs, horses and more animals at Westerner Days

Westerner Park’s pavilions were filled with animals during Westerner Days

Red Deer residents can’t get enough mini-doughnuts

Mini-doughnuts were the biggest draw to Westerner Days according to a Red… Continue reading

Four-car crash, including RCMP vehicle, on Highway 2

Two sheriff vehicles were also involved in the collision

Divers hunt for 4 after Missouri duck boat sinks, killing 13

BRANSON, Mo. — Divers are searching Friday for four people still missing… Continue reading

WATCH: Red Deer’s noxious weeds are a goat’s dietary delight

Piper Creek Community Garden gets chemical-free weed control

‘Amazing Race Canada’ competitors face B.C. challenge

They drove Corvettes, mastered falconry basics, and ate blueberry pie in the Cowichan Valley

From hot to not? The Baloney Meter weighs in on Scheer’s economy claims

OTTAWA — “Justin Trudeau inherited a booming economy, but he’s squandering it.… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month