MELANIE MINTY: Surrey Festival of Dance gets moving this Friday

SURREY — Surrey Festival of Dance begins Friday (March 28) with a month-long competition for dancers of all ages and different dance disciplines. Surrey Arts Centre, in Bear Creek Park, will be busier than ever with almost 10,000 entrants in this annual amateur dance competition, first established in 1966. That’s a lot of dancers who have come to Surrey to be part of one of the largest amateur dance competitions in North America.

From humble beginnings, and a dedicated core of individuals, Surrey Festival of Dance is a frontrunner in the city’s creative economy and continually lives up to its mission statement: “To provide a high quality forum for dancers to perform, and to help promote and expand dance awareness in the community.”

There are so many stories to tell about this festival. Look at the people involved as volunteers who run and organize this large project. Doreene Rowe was one of the founding members of the festival, and still returns to Surrey every year to sit at the certificate table. She is also in charge of the syllabus and entries – a big job! It is always a delight to see her, and I mean, wow, that’s a lot of years of dedication. So thanks, Doreene, and all the wonderful volunteers who make this festival possible. 

This year, the ballet section runs from March 28 to April 2, international is March 30, and modern/contemporary takes the stage from April 3 to 7. Hip-hop/street dance runs from April 12 to 13, and tap and stage concludes the festival from April 22 to 30. I am giving you these dates so you can schedule a drop in to watch some of the action. The public is most welcome to view, and there are morning, afternoon and evening sections with a modest admission fee (usually $2). It’s impossible to list the entire schedule of groups and soloists. You will just have to show up and take your chances. It’s all good.

It is a delight to see more people getting involved in, and appreciating, the dance arts. While we have typically thought of dance lessons for little girls, there is more to it than tutus and tiaras. Adults are discovering the allure of learning to dance, whether it is ballroom, tap, belly or hip-hop. It used to be that just one or two groups of adults participated in Surrey Festival of Dance. It was just for fun. Now, it is a substantial section, with age divisions (under or over 30), categories, trophies and other awards. It’s still fun, but practice is getting intense now.

Television shows like So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing With the Stars have also greatly contributed to our growing awareness of dance in our community. And on this season of DWTS, age and ability – and even disability – are proving that there are no barriers to taking up dance.

I admire the 77-year-old Billy Dee Williams, who, after a double hip replacement, is taking to the floor with dance partner Amy Purdy, a Paralympic silver medalist in snowboarding. She lost both of her legs, from below the knee, to complications from meningitis when she was 19. Now, at age 27, she is showing the world she can dance. Then there is the 64-year-old Diana Nyad, who spent 35 years in training and attempting swims from Cuba to Florida. She finally succeeded, and now is dancing. Her motto is, “never give up.” Most of these stars, including Nene Leckes (Coach Roz on Glee) are not only learning to dance, they are doing it live on national television. Their stories are inspirational. Anyone can dance. And should.


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