Xba School of Dance’s senior performance group. (submitted photo)

COLUMN

MINTY: Surrey to celebrate International Dance Day with fabulous fusion, for free

Xba studio presents ‘The Art of Dance’ event Sunday afternoon at city hall

By Melanie Minty, arts columnist

Another International Dance Day is celebrated on April 29, as it is every year, on the birthday of Jean-Georges Noverre, creator of modern ballet. The day was launched by the dance committee of the International Theatre Institute ITI, the main partner for the performing arts of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), as a way to honour the power of dance worldwide. Dance for peace, dance to promote diverse cultures, dance for the passion of dance. Just dance. Events and festivals are held all over the world to promote… dancing!

To celebrate, Surrey’s Xba School of Dance presents “The Art of Dance” on Sunday, April 28, from noon to 3 p.m. at Surrey City Hall (atrium and plaza). There will be performances every 15 minutes by local groups including The Wee Drams, Keri’s Highland Dance Studio, Vancouver Chinese Folk & Minorities Dance Association, Flamenco Del Mar and the senior dance teams from Tamanawis Secondary and Earl Marriott Secondary. It will be a true cultural celebration.

Admission is free to this cultural and artistic fusion of dance, and more. Food trucks will be on the Plaza (I’m in – dance and food trucks!) as well as artist and exhibitors booths. Hip-hop to highland, contemporary or break dance – there will be something everyone can enjoy. Remember, this event is free. This fabulous fusion is a gift from the dance arts to our community. Thank you, Xba, and all the other dancers you have collected for this International Dance Day.

The Surrey Festival of Dance is still going on, right to the end of April, and International Dance Day has another venue of celebration at Surrey Arts Centre. Also on Sunday (April 28), it will be jazz dancers competing for honours and awards.

Dance is an athletic art form. Physical demands on a dancer’s body are intense. To be at the top of the art, a dancer has to train in technique, listen to music and understand the timing and rhythm, and challenge cognitive recognition in remembering the choreography. Dance training at the highest level is like training to be an Olympic athlete. It is demanding.

Hannah Premia-Daudjee has a passion for dance, and says she has been dancing all her life. She began Dansing Tones Association in 2014 as a means to bring the joy of dance to people with physically disabilities. After a serious injury from a car accident in 2013, she was determined to get back to using her body again. She was also inspired by her disabled sister, Angelina, and had to “think outside the box” as she developed a dance program for disabled children. She wants to expand to include all ages, and sees dance as both an art form and a kind of therapy.

“Dance engages cross-bilateral motion, cognitive recognition, repetition and consistency,” says Hannah, reeling off these words with pure passion. She majored in psychology in university, but had some kinesiology course for background. “I love it when I see my students connect to either the music or the movement – or both,” she says. So, it is not a misspelled word, as “Dansing” combines both dance and sing. Ah ha. Got it.

Hannah is so enthusiastic about her program and believes it to be different than what is already out there in the community. “It is important to me that my students could discover their own abilities and participate at their own level.” She would like to expand her program to include “neurotypical” (normal) and “atypical” functioning individuals. Many physical disabilities are caused from atypical brains, and the learning process required to dance often has dramatic results in enhancing physical abilities. “I challenge my students to be their best version of themselves,” explains Hannah as she helps build strength and confidence. “I love seeing the smiles on my students’ faces — I can’t ask for anything more than that. It’s rewarding.”

About two and a half years ago, Hannah brought her Dansing Tones program into the Surrey schools. It is funded by a cultural grant, and Hannah is quick to thank Carol Girardi, president of the Arts Council of Surrey, for lots of help in grant writing and getting her non-profit association to charitable status. It is work that she attacks with passion.

“If you had told me 10 years ago that I would be teaching dance…” Hanna muses. “I am really blessed.” And so are we, in this community. If you think you would like to join Hannah’s classes, contact her at hello@dansingtones.ca.

There it is, a celebration of life using dance. We can’t always choose the music life plays for us, but we can choose how we dance to it. Thank you to Hannah for finding the ability in those we think of as disabled and unable to dance. We can all find some way unique to us and celebrate International Dance Day. It makes a difference, doesn’t it?

Melanie Minty writes twice monthly for the Now-Leader. Email: melminty@telus.net.

CLICK HERE to read more columns by Melanie Minty.

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