Haliburton Dance Arts founder Terri Matthews is returning to a studio much different from when she left it.

Renamed the Haliburton Dance Academy, the studio has doubled to approximately 150 students since Matthews departed in 2012. That has prompted the studio to hire three new instructors, including Matthews, to help with the workload.

“I’m excited after having some time to recharge to come back,” Matthews said. “(Owner) Chyna (Schell) has some world-class instructors coming up to Haliburton. I don’t think people realize how fortunate we are. These teachers are really high in demand.”

The academy held an open house Sept. 4, inviting new and returning dancers to get ready for the season. Schell credited passion for the group’s growth, which allowed it to bring on more staff.

“I really think that the kids thrive when they’re shown how much we care about it and how much our heart is in it. This is home to us and it always will be,” Schell said. “This entire space just absolutely is fuelled by love.”

With growth comes other changes. Schell said the studio plans to run more day classes this year to accommodate different schedules. She is also in search of new studio space for the 2020/21 season to provide more room for the larger number of students.

“We’re looking for something that’s really going to accommodate our growth,” Schell said. “We really want to give them what they deserve.”

Current instructor Shay Hutchings said she looks forward to having new instructors on the dance floor, who can garner more focus than older teachers.

“We’re like the ‘mom voice,’ when they hear us, but they kind of tune us out a little bit,” Hutchings said. “I feel like having new faces and new styles in will be really good and push them.”

Her brother, Wyatt Hutchings, is in his last year as a student at the academy. He said he is excited for the season ahead and reuniting with his classmates.

“It’s like a huge family. There’s going to be some times where we butt heads but that’s just because we love each other,” he said. “Once you’re connected with us, even if you leave, you’re still going to be connected forever.”

“Chyna’s really looking to the future, to expand the studio,” Matthews said. “So that kids, local kids in the Haliburton County area, have the same kind of advantages as if they lived in a bigger city.”

The dance season started Sept. 16

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