Nela Hallwas, founder of the XBa School of Dance in South Surrey, isn’t hiding the fact that, like everyone else, two years of lockdown and pandemic restrictions have taken their toll.
But, at the same time, she’s hopeful — and foresees a future in which the pandemic has receded to a point where it no longer hampers the arts community.
“During the pandemic, we went through a bit of rebuilding,” she said.
“Something that has become very evident is how much the arts are needed in the community. Everyone takes the arts for granted, but it is the arts, in all their forms, that have saved us – especially during times of lockdown.
It’s time for White Rock and Surrey to affirm the importance of the arts to our physical and cultural development and our mental health, she said. Peace Ark News – and also time for new artistic voices to be heard.
That’s why she called XBa’s long-awaited return to the stage – on the Surrey Arts Centre’s Main Stage at 7pm on Friday, April 29 – I can hear your voice.
Celebrating International Dance Day, it is actually a multidisciplinary spectacle including dance, visual arts, music, words, film and photography.
Among the guest dance artists scheduled will be The Wee Drams, a dance group from the Scottish Highlands; a new traditional Macedonian folk dance troupe; the long-established Indian classical dance company Prajakta Trehan; Tamanawis Solo dance artist Ishan Sekhon and Semiahmoo First Nations dancers.
The visual work of two Surrey artists will also be highlighted, Lyn Verra-Lay, who will work with silk installations, and Helmut Gruntorad, who will create video presentations.
The diverse nature of the show portends more development for XBa, Hallwas said.
“It’ll be a little taste of what’s to come at XBa – a first little spark to come back to life.”
In September, as it enters its 23rd year of operation, the school will be renamed The XBa Dance Center for the International Performing Arts.
“It is with deep thought and consideration that my daughter Amadea and I have decided to welcome a few select cultural dance groups to the XBa studio, to work alongside our continuing dance education programs,” Hallwas noted, in an official announcement on April 15.
“(We will) also provide our community with a unique and very special performance venue for certain events,” she added.
The facility, which offers 2,800 square feet of open studio space, has been used over the years for XBa’s own events, including the Rhapsody Awards Film Festival, MasqueRAVE fundraiser, intimate dance performances and audiences and art sales.
Some of the benefits it offers include a movie theater size screen and a 70ft by 20ft black velvet theater curtain.
“The space lends itself to everything from an intimate performance setting to a film and photography studio,” Hallwas said, noting that it can easily transform into creative performance spaces for dance, theater and the music.
For visual art events, the center will offer a departure from traditional galleries, contributing to a unique and avant-garde metropolitan-style setting, she added.
“It’s the largest physical space on the peninsula,” she said. PAN. “Normally, we can seat 200 people there.”
Although she had closely guarded this gem for two decades, she said, she realized it was “time to go deeper,” noting that XBa’s projects include partnerships with Semiahmoo Arts.
“XBa Dance Center will also continue to work with dancers of diverse abilities,” Hallwas added. “We have had classes for and with them for 20 years now. XBa is about inclusivity and making dance accessible – it’s who we are and what we do.
That sense of identity has been tested by the pandemic, admitted Hallwas – also a painter and visual artist.
For March 2020, XBa had received an invitation to participate in a prestigious international conference in Athens, Greece, in which dancer, choreographer and administrator Amadea was to play a key role, leading to further career opportunities.
Everyone was approved, packed and ready to travel when the global pandemic was declared that month, Hallwas said.
Having to cancel those plans was an emotional rollercoaster, she noted, and in the darkest hour she doubted she could save the school, which “took half my life to build.”
“Amadea put her dreams on hold and stepped in as an administrator,” she said. “She did pretty much everything.”
Hallwas said that, during the lockdown, XBa bounced back by doing lessons on Zoom, while Amadea would also make it a point to visit students’ homes to maintain personal – albeit distant – contact.
Hallwas also credits the help and encouragement of Surrey Board of Trade CEO Anita Huberman, who connected XBa to WorkSafe BC to develop protocols that would allow all dance studios to safely resume in-person classes.
The metrics established by the studio allow it to move forward to do more, Hallwas said.
“Our certification program has actually expanded,” she noted. “We are the first school to offer an international certificate in hip-hop and street dance – the faculty are very enthusiastic about it.”
Now, with her fingers crossed, she envisions the start of what could be a new era on the Semiahmoo Peninsula.
“We have such a wealth of art and artists here. There are great things to be done in the community – and we all need to do it together.
The Surrey Arts Center is located at 13750 88 Ave. For tickets to I can hear your voicevisit tickets.surrey.ca
Arts and culturedance