Surrey’s PraiseTEAM dancers need new home

SURREY — The lines painted on the gym floor of the Don Bosco Youth Centre are for basketball.

They are meant for a sport governed by rules – a stark contrast to the free-flowing expression of dance.

Surrey’s Praise Theatre Ensemble and Arts Ministry, or PraiseTEAM, have spent the past 14 years dancing across these lines.

From its humble beginnings of just nine dancers to the current membership of more than 200, PraiseTEAM has outgrown its current home.

"There are so many classes that we cannot really give room for all of them and that’s why we are looking for a space," said Beth Reyes, director of PraiseTEAM.

PraiseTEAM began in a small parish room in 1997 when Reyes, who was a dancer, was asked by parents to teach their children.

As the name might suggest, PraiseTEAM has a faith-centred ideology, but the faithbased component is not exclusive and they welcome anyone who is passionate about dance.

"We are not exclusive to only the Christian faith, we still accept students who are from multiple religions and with their own beliefs," said Menelaine Valencia, one of the instructors.

As more students began taking classes, Reyes moved the group into the gym at the youth centre.

"After that, by word of mouth, people started to get interested and it has grown from nine to more than 200 throughout the years," she said.

The addition of hip hop classes and some very talented dancers helped propel the team to the international stage.

In 2013, PraiseTeam travelled to Las Vegas to represent Canada at the World Hip Hop Dance Championships. The varsity team, known as Brotherhood, brought home gold while their megacrew, a dance group of more than 30 members, took silver – an accomplishment they hope to repeat this August. Recently, three of their groups qualified to represent Canada once again at the prestigious international competition.

As the dance classes have grown more popular and the talent of the dancers increases, Reyes and her dancers have set out to find a new home.

The gym at the youth centre is a multi-use facility and is not always open when dancers can practice. There are often drop-in basketball games, meetings and other events that displace the group, said Reyes.

"The church is very gracious to us in giving us this space but then they also have other organizations and we have to move out when there are special events," she added.

For the dancers, some of whom are practicing seven days a week, not having a proper facility is taking a toll.

"It gets really loud, sometimes there are so many classes going on at the same time and if you’re in the back of the room you can’t even hear what the teacher is saying," said Francis Aranton, 17, who started dancing nine years ago and plans to move to Los Angeles in the future to pursue a career in dance.

PraiseTEAM has launched a campaign on the crowdfunding website Indiegogo. Their goal is to raise $100,000 to aid them in leasing a proper studio space in Surrey without having to raise fees for their dancers. To find out more about PraiseTEAM, visit praiseteamstudio.com.

matt@mattlaw.ca

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