Creative Energy Arts Factory (CEAF) is saying goodbye after seven years in Fernie. The children’s dance company performed its final show last week, with two performances of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Traynor Hall. CEAF founder and director, Alana Rybar, says making the decision to close the company was a difficult one.
“I am so blown away from the outpouring of emotion. Not just from the kids and parents, but from the community. I didn’t realize that Creative Energy was so impactful,” she said. “Even though I am stepping down from CEAF, I continue to be passionate about dance, theatre and the performing arts and to growing their presence in a positive, inclusive and nurturing way.”
The CEAF started in 2009 and since the beginning has been a popular activity with Fernie youth.
“When I first had the vision I wanted to have not just a dance studio, but also a performing arts studio. I wanted it to be more than just a dance class that a kid went to check off their activity for the week. I wanted it to be a place that inspired students,” said Rybar. “When I first opened the studio with this vision I thought, ‘Well, Fernie is a small town and incredibly sport orientated. If I get 20-25 kids who love to dance, sing and act I’ll be happy’. The first year alone we registered 92 students.”
Last Friday marked Rybar’s 42nd time on stage with the CEAF, performing 28 different shows, 14 different titles and in 14 tech rehearsals. Because of the breadth of the shows she has directed, it is extremely difficult for Rybar to pick a favourite.
“My shows are like children to me so it was like saying you liked one of my kids better than the other,” she said. “I guess if I had to pick my favourite shows, I would have to say that the two shows that were performed this year were my favourites. Once Upon a Time (December 2015) was an original show that I had written just for our studio combining some of our favourite stories. The kids were phenomenal, my artistic director Malissa was phenomenal and the show really represented the evolution of the studio. I adore Shakespeare, and producing a piece of his work has always been on the CEAF bucket list so I loved the show we just put on, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
Rybar added that the most recent performance was the most challenging story she has ever adapted into dance and featured a student choreographed piece, which is something she has been encouraging students to do since the CEAF started.
A trio of girls perform a routine during the CEAF’s performance of Peter Pan. – Photo courtesy of Jamie Hyde Photography
Throughout her time at the helm of the CEAF, Rybar maintained a goal of wanting to keep the program affordable for families.
“Another one of the mandates was to always keep dance and the performing arts high quality and engaging but also affordable for families. I created a costume rental program when we first started, and though it’s meant juggling things financially,” she said, crediting both her husband and her father for giving her financial knowledge. “It’s meant that parents have not had to pay for expensive costumes and competition fees, and the kids and the community have still gotten to experience the joy of performance.”
It is near impossible to spend seven years doing anything and not gather a collection of experience, both positive and negative, including a trip to Disneyland with some students in 2015 and the community’s reaction to a variety of their shows. Some of the lowlights include when they CEAF had to say goodbye to Rachel Daw in 2011 and when artistic director Malissa Palliyaguru fell on stage while attempting to help some students. She fell down some stairs during the December 2015 performance and broke her foot, resulting in her being in a cast for four months. Rybar is thankful for both Daw and Palliyaguru and is happy she was able to attract their caliber of talent to Fernie.
While the CEAF will no longer be active, Rybar would love to see performing arts flourish in Fernie and hopes to see the creation of a proper venue to be able to nurture a performing arts culture.
“The first thing we need is to grow a performing arts community is a proper venue. In terms of dance, theatre and the performing arts, Fernie is a very difficult town to work in. There is no theatre here, and though the Arts Station is lovely it certainly is not a reasonable place to stage anything significant. I would love to see the City of Fernie invest more in the performing arts in terms of youth programming as well as directing funds towards building a proper theatre,” she said.
Overall, Rybar says she has had an amazing experience working with youth in Fernie and will continue to be a supporter of the arts.
“I am happy to see the industry growing and changing for the better, and now I am taking our special CEAF model and using our experience to help other dance studios grow in a positive way.”
Alana Rybar with one of her young students in one of her many performances with the CEAF. – Photo courtesy of Jamie Hyde Photography.