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Ballet dancers and hearts part of celebration of life for Calgary stabbing victims

Dave Hancock is pictured in Edmonton, March 20, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

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Dave Hancock is pictured in Edmonton, March 20, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

CALGARY - Nicki Perras always wished she had her sister Kaiti's gift when it came to dancing.

She remembered her younger sister Wednesday as she spoke at a celebration of life for Kaiti, along with Jordan Segura, Zackariah Rathwell, Josh Hunter and Lawrence Hong at the University of Calgary.

"She would always end up so frustrated with me. She would just float across the room and I'd be tripping over an imaginary line," said Nicki Perras, who was joined on stage by her brother Josh.

"Her frustration with my lack of grace never really stopped her from trying to teach me how to dance. That was her passion. She wanted me to be a part of it," she said.

"That I think is the best thing she ever taught me. Never stop trying to live your passion and don't be afraid to do it. We may have lost our sister but we know whenever we follow our own spirit and live our passions she will be right there with us."

Six ballet dancers performed on stage immediately after her speech. They were all members of Kaiti Perras's dance troupe.

The 500 people at the service held up cardboard hearts with the names of the five young people, who were stabbed to death at an end of school house party on April 15.

Alberta Premier Dave Hancock said the tragedy hit home because of his children and grandchildren.

He said Alberta is diminished by the loss of five bright young people.

"We should not compound the tragedy by not learning from it ... learning what we can do," said Hancock.

"Our province is diminished by the loss of these five young people but Alberta is a different place, a better place, a more beautiful place because they were here."

The day was particularly poignant for the family of Lawrence Hong — the urban studies student would have turned 28 Wednesday.

"Lawrence was passionate about making connections and relationships," said his brother, Miles Hong.

"If you were his friend, you were also his family."

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said it has been a rough couple of weeks for Calgary. He said healing is going to take time.

"We've gone through final exams and put one foot in front of the other foot and the best tribute we can give to these five folks is to live our lives in remembrance of these folks and who they were and to be inspired by their example."

Mount Royal University president David Docherty said it was important to remember the five victims.

"They were five bright young lives. The message here today is these were individuals that were future dancers, doctors and lawyers who had all kinds of songs and stories to tell."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a statement offering his condolences to the families.

"As parents ourselves, our hearts go out to all of the families whose lives have been forever changed by this unimaginable tragedy," he said. "These were upstanding young adults, full of life, all with bright futures ahead of them. In fact, three of the five victims were students at the University of Calgary, just as I was many years ago."

Matthew de Grood, 22, has been charged with five counts of first degree murder and is undergoing a psychiatric assessment.

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