SURREY — The month of April is all about Dance in Surrey. It begins with the month-long Surrey Festival of Dance and ends with an International Dance Day celebration on April 29. All events happen at Surrey Arts Centre in Bear Creek Park. Look out for lots of traffic in this area for all of April. The dance festival attracts nearly 10,000 participants over the month. Dance has a huge economic impact on our community and we can – and should – celebrate the positive force of dance.
Surrey Festival of Dance is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Doreen Rowe, one of the event founders, has been a constant volunteer at this festival for every one of those 50 years. I asked her what she would like to say about the festival. “What else is there to say?” she quips as she toasts the 50th-year gobo shining on the wall of the arts centre. OK, so lots of years, lots of dancers, many volunteers to keep in running, and the major event held at arts centre. The Main Stage and the Studio Theatre are pretty fully booked by the festival for the entire month. The parking lot is swamped – especially on a sunny day when the park is packed as well. So, we get it: the festival is a big deal.
Economic impact is pretty easy to assess. Over the past 23 years, the festival has awarded $1.25 million in scholarships and bursaries. The grand total is, of course, a lot more than that, but it is only the last 23 years that detailed records were kept. So impressive. This year, the festival will hand out about $60,000 in scholarships and bursaries. What happens in Surrey at the festival doesn’t necessarily stay in Surrey. It filters out everywhere. Good job. Oh yes, that reminds me – everyone involved in the festival is a de facto Surrey and dance ambassador. Make it count in a positive, joyful way. I know, I know. It is a competition and sometimes it is difficult to be nice. Just remember, we are celebrating dance and culture. Make new friends.
XBa DanceCo (on the Semiahmoo Peninsula since 1999) became accredited by UNESCO’s International Dance Council CID a number of years ago. Since 2010, Xba has been celebrating International Dance Day on April 29. Artistic director Nela H (or Hallwas, pictured) combines different dance styles and cultures. “The philosophy I teach all my dance students is that we are one race, the human race, and our common language is dance,” she says. “So let’s dance together and make this a better place.”
That is Nela’s vision for world peace. Hey, why not? It might be a better solution than anything else we’ve tried so far.
Three years ago Nela contacted “the amazing, wonderful ladies” at the Surrey Festival of Dance “and with their generosity of time and their belief in the vision, the International Dance Day celebration was able to move to the SAC’s studio theatre.
In 2011, Nela founded The Diskordanse Company, a professional dance troupe based at the XBa studios, with a mandate to offer paid work to XBa-trained dancers, XBa faculty members and professional dancers. In October of 2015, Diskordanse became incorporated as a non-profit society. For the 2016 International Dance Day event, Diskordanse took on the role of production company and secured a cultural grant from the City of Surrey to help make this project a reality. See? The City of Surrey does believe in the power of dance.
This year’s performance is entitled “Blueprint for a Better Place.” With help from Tracy Tichelman (president of Diskordance) and event co-ordinator Grete Partridge, the staging of “Blueprint” is a true collaboration between Diskordanse company and XBa dancers, plus Scottish, Serbian and bhangra dancers, with artists of different mediums as well. Groups performing include SKUD Zavicaj Vancouver, Keri’s Scottish Highland Dance and Hardeep Singh Sahota and his Royal Academy of Bhangra. This reflects Surrey’s artistic community. A tapestry and wealth of dance forms – and more. Here is the best part: Tickets are only $20 (call the Surrey Arts Centre box office at 604 501-5566, or click here to buy). There is a lot more to this story, but enough for now. It’s April. Gotta do something involving dance.