Dance academy

Haliburton Dance Academy ends 10 years of running in the Highlands

When students from the Haliburton Dance Academy (HDA) take the stage at the Northern Lights Performing Arts Pavilion from June 17-19 for their end-of-year recital, it will mark the end of an era for dance in the Highlands.

The academy, established 25 years ago by Terri Mathews-Carl under another name — and owned by Chyna Schell as HDA for the past 10 years — is closing.

The effect of COVID-19 on the Industrial Park Road studio, as well as the health issues facing the birth of Schell’s third child, Mabel, contributed to the difficult decision.

The businesswoman remains the owner of HDA but plans to sell the building.

Schell cited “those two major factors and everything that comes with those two major factors” for his decision.


She bought the new studio in December 2019, due to work with council Dysart et al on rezoning and arranging contract work on the building. She had big plans but could never have foreseen a global pandemic shutting them down for long periods of time.

Schell also became pregnant with Mabel in 2021. She was born with HIE, a brain injury that prevented adequate blood flow from reaching her brain. This means working with doctors and researchers at Sick Kids in Toronto.

“In a way, I feel too tired to do it, but I feel too tired to do it because of the state that COVID has put me in and because of the birth of my third child, and having three kids at home that I miss in the evenings,” she said.

“Would I be so exhausted and tired if I didn’t have those two things in mind?” Probably not. I’ll probably do this until I’m 100. It’s no longer a matter of not being passionate about it. It is no longer a question of no longer enjoying it. It’s just a matter of not being able to be so scattered in so many areas of my life. It’s not fair to everyone around me, it’s not fair to my dancers, to my own children, to my husband and myself.

Schell added that she has high standards for how HDA is run, in terms of service quality, instruction, environment and organization. She said she felt unable to maintain those standards for herself, her dancers and her clients with how her life changed so quickly.

That being said, Schell said Mabel is doing well and is impressing the doctors and physiotherapists at Sick Kids. She will be part of a research study for HIE babies.

“When you focus on something that’s sort of a silver lining of a traumatic experience, it’s very helpful for emotional recovery,” Schell said.

Throughout it all, the community has stood firm in their support for HDA, she added.

“It was a great two years, but the biggest part of it was the support we felt. Not a day went by that I didn’t feel lonely. Not a day went by that I didn’t feel like everyone was supporting us. I fully understand that this is a commercial project and although it is a small business it is treated with so much support, gratitude and willpower and I just couldn’t have go through 10 years without all of this behind me.

She said she had discussions with people about selling the business, but it hadn’t worked out yet. Yet she is open to it. “Crossed fingers.”

As the recital wraps up on June 19, she added, “It will be an emotional time. When you’re sad because something so good ends, let it be sad because it’s a good thing. That means it was worth something. And that was certainly worth something to a lot of people in that community. And I know I certainly wouldn’t be who I am today without HDA and it breaks my heart that I can’t continue to provide this for future generations.

Christmas for dancers

HDA students will take the stage June 17-19 for their spring recital, which Schell calls “the year’s Christmas for dancers.”

“They really work so hard all year and it comes down to that last moment in the spring when they get to show everything they’ve put their hearts into on stage and they wholeheartedly deserve it.”

She said they had been working for 35 weeks, since mid-September. She noted that some of the routines have been in the works since 2020. She expects around 100 dancers to participate.

Go to (search for HDA) for more information.

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