It is officially spring. We can see sure signs of spring in Surrey - the daffodils and tulips are beginning to bloom and, starting April 2, Surrey Festival of Dance begins its month-long tenancy at Surrey Arts Centre. Dancers of all ages compete in varied dance styles in this festival, which is still one of the largest amateur dance competitions held in North America.
The festival was created up in 1966 by a group of dance moms who wanted a local competition for their dancers. That year, 450 dancers entered. Years later, that number would soar to more than 10,000. This year, the entries received total more than 7,000 dancers. That's pretty impressive.
Over the course of five weeks, Surrey Festival of Dance covers dance disciplines in ballet, contemporary/ modern, jazz, hip hop/street, lyrical, tap and stage, song and dance, studio productions, and international. Adjudicators are hired from around the world for each dance section. This gives the dancers an opportunity to pick up bits of different dance "wisdoms." Sure, the adjudication is one person's opinion - you may agree with it, or not. At the end of the day, the important thing is that more than 7,000 dancers have had the opportunity to share their passion for dance in a magical performance on stage at beautiful Surrey Arts Centre.
There will be trophies, triumphs and sometimes tears. It is an experience that can enrich, educate and entertain. Over the 47 years of the festival, there have been changes and challenges. Founding member Doreene Rowe has faithfully been at every festival for 47 years. She now commutes from the Interior to be part of the festival. You will find her at the certificate table, as usual.
Besides awarding certificates and trophies, the festival disburses bursaries and scholarships. According to dedicated volunteer Cindy Funk, more than $55,000 will be awarded to dancers in this festival this year. That's impressive. Cindy's daughter, Amber, competed for many years at this festival; she now has her own dance company. Broadway and dance stars Alex Wong, Danielle Gardner, Steve Girardi, Cody Green, Joshua Cyr, and Dorrie and Kelly Konno are just some of the many professionals who competed at the festival. Just sayin'.
Other features of the Surrey Festival are master classes in each discipline, an Honour Performance finale and the No Borders Group Dance Challenge. Admission to watch any of these competition classes is nominal - worth a visit or two.
The festival gets going April 2 with Junior Jazz sessions, followed by (in order) Intermediate/Senior Jazz, Modern/Contemporary, Junior Ballet, Intermediate/Senior Ballet, International, Junior Tap and Stage, Intermediate/Senior Tap and Stage and Hip Hop/Street. Check at the festival office or website (surreyfestival.com) for more details. Please don't ask at the Surrey Arts Centre box office - you have to go directly to the dance festival folks to get details of what is on, when.
Better yet, maybe you'd like to volunteer at the festival. It takes thousands of man hours to organize an event of this size and scope. Help is always needed, especially during the daytime. I can tell you from experience, the festival treats its volunteers quite well. They might even feed you. Email the festival at email@example.com or call 604-585-3320 if you'd like to help out, or even become an associate member. You don't have to be a dancer, a dance mom or have any prior experience. Surrey Festival of Dance is a prize in my eyes. We can all take pride in this remarkable project. May it continue for another 47 years, at least.