At the Center for Performance Arts and Learning, or Cen4Pal for short, culture and diversity come together to provide a safe space for individuals to try out the creative arts. With now 50 different instructional classes ranging from visual art, music, dance and creative expression classes, Cen4Pal strives to provide an inclusive environment and a springboard for young artists and educators to learn or teach a new craft. 

Detroit Public TV’s “Detroit Performs: Live from Marygrove” team visits the Center for Performance Arts and Learning in Wixom, along the Novi-Wixom border, to talk with the organization’s Cultural Ambassador Nandita Bajaj, Program Director Collin Kuss and Business Manager Gary Elsner about the environment Cen4Pal is cultivating and the mission to boost students’ confidence through the creative arts. Plus, the organization’s aerial and yoga instructor Katie Hoffman talks about the mixed aerial arts classes she teaches and the overall expansion of the organization since it began. 

Cen4Pal Aerial Arts

Center for Performance Arts and Learning Aerial and Yoga Instructor Katie Hoffman leads an aerial silks class at the organization’s studios in Wixom, Michigan. | Photo by One Detroit

Full Transcript:

Nandita Bajaj, Cultural Ambassador, Center for Performance Arts and Learning: Nothing holds me back. If I can dance, I’ll do it.  

Nandita Bajaj: This is the Center for Performance Arts and Learning. This is where cultural diversity comes together. This is where 6 to 600, is our new hashtag. Age is not a limit. Your ethnicity is not a limit. Your gender is not going to hold you back. Your beliefs don’t hold you back.  

Collin Kuss, Program Director, Center for Performance Arts and Learning: We strive to bring an all-inclusive and safe environment for any walk of life. Any human being that wants to be an artist can come here and be welcome here and be a part of what feels like a family.  

Gary Elsner, Business Manager, Center for Performance Arts and Learning: Nandita has a great heart for people, and she pushes. We want everybody to be comfortable and we want everybody to try something they’ve never tried before. So this is a very unique place.  

Nandita Bajaj: We are actually right on the border of Nova and Wixom; we were looking for something which was easily accessible. But I think when we walked in, sounds cliche, but the space just seemed right. This is basically a springboard for young instructors, for young artists, for people who want to learn, and they can. They are in a very safe space.  

Collin Kuss: It is so important for people to learn about other art forms because it’s the same way about learning history or learning math or learning reading. It creates a holistic view of the world.  

Nandita Bajaj: In the dance world or in the music world. A lot of what is competitive leads to broken self-esteem leads to, you know, broken dreams. So, we’re trying in our own little way to build people back up, I guess.  

Collin Kuss: I think what really causes confidence to grow here is that nurturing environment. So, you see people walking in who have never taken this class before and go from complete beginner to very, very fluent in the motions. And it’s so cool to see that really positive, really nurturing environment, really helping inspire people to succeed.  

Nandita Bajaj: We have four basic areas dance, music, art along with creative expression. Creative expression includes languages, speech classes, communication classes. Music, of course, covers your drums and guitar. That was the four basic areas we started working with drum guitar, voice, and keyboard. Now we could span it into viola, violin, flute. We’re talking to a cello instructor as well. 

Collin Kuss: I teach voice and I’m going to be the one directing the community choir. That’s going to be an incredibly wide age range, which I find to be very unique. You don’t really see a lot of community choirs anywhere that have age ranges from early high school or even middle school to middle age. It really doesn’t matter what age you are.  

Nandita Bajaj: We do have a student who has actually been invited to sing for the Pistols. He’s going to be singing the national anthem for the Pistons in March.  

Collin Kuss: It makes me proud to see them thriving.  

Nandita Bajaj: Dance classes cover your ballet, tap jazz, international dance, classical dance-styled, aerial arts. We just introduced a mixed aerial arts class and then fitness.  

Collin Kuss: Some of the really unique ones that we have are the aerial silks classes or the lyric classes.  

Katie Hoffman, Aerial and Yoga Instructor, Center for Performance Arts and Learning: Our aerial program has grown over the last year a lot. Because of the commitment that I’ve made for it and the vision that I’ve wanted for it. And Nandita has backed me up all the way, which is great. We went from having straight fabrics to now all these other apparatuses and all these different things that these students can learn.  

Katie Hoffman: I like the fact that it takes a lot of strength and it’s a very difficult discipline. I want the students to leave every week how I felt when I first started. Which was when I got in my car I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to go back in and just keep playing.  

Katie Hoffman: It’s a great stress reliever. It’s a workout. I mean, if you’re on that apparatus for 45 minutes to an hour, even if you’re on and off of it, you’re burning calories. You’re building muscle. You’re building confidence.  

Collin Kuss: There’s a lot of Bollywood-style dance classes that we have that you really can’t find at a lot of places nearby. 

Nandita Bajaj: I teach Bollywood classes. I teach both classical, semi-classical. And, you know, your contemporary Bollywood music-based classes.  

Gary Elsner: If an instructor has a passion for it, we can tell.  

Nandita Bajaj: Our biggest trend is our instructors. They’re all qualified, they’re all passionate teachers. That is what makes them so unique.  

Katie Hoffman: I just love it because she’s seen what I can do and we get along really well and can communicate just fine. And she kind of just has thrown the ball in my court, allows me to create my own syllabus, allows me to just be creative with the students, set goals with them.   

Gary Elsner: This is the most comfortable way to step out of your comfort zone. There are things you can do here that you never thought you would do, but it’s the most comfortable way to do it.  

Collin Kuss: If you’re sitting there watching this, just do it. There is nothing holding you back. We are here and we want to have you here. We want to help you succeed here.  

Nandita Bajaj: When we started about two years ago, we just started with this one building, pure dance classes. Today we are sitting at two different studios with about 23 different classes we offer. The goal is still to work with as many people as possible. It’s very satisfying. It makes us happy to see that we are able to do what we are able to do.  

Collin Kuss: I want to bring love to the community, a smile at the very least, and something that they fall in love with at the most. Because at the end of the day, I truly feel like art is what makes us human. And when we love art, we’re able to love people. So, I want to kind of share that with the world. I want to share that with every person that walks in these doors.  

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