I decided to create this blog to Recognize and Showcase some of the amazing Dancers and Choreographers in the city of Toronto! I love Dancers I think we are amazing human beings and the passion for this art unites us. Being a Dancer is not easy and going in to this Industry takes a lot of Hard Work and Dedication. Its hard to maintain a life as a full time dancer in Toronto. There are many occasions where Dancers and Choreographers are not paid and if they are its at a low rate for the amount of work that’s put in. I admire the ones who go all the way especially the ones from Toronto! I Felt that it was important to profile and share their stories. Here’s mine…..
My earliest memory of really feeling passionate about dance was around the age of 7. I met a girl on my street who went to a dance studio she had all these great costumes. I used to trade my trolls for her dance costumes and put on shows in my backyard mostly by myself ( I feel the joy as I write this of what that felt like back then) My mother enrolled me in a Dance studio when I was 8, where I began training in Ballet, Jazz, Tap and Character. Hip Hop classes weren’t really offered in studio’s back then. All I wanted to do was create and perform, I love Music and Singing at age 12 I was given a clarinet and electric piano and taught myself how to play. I performed with the school band and choir for 2 years. I went on to audition and be accepted into Cawthra Park S.S Regional Arts program for Dance at the age of 13. Unfortunately when I was 14 My single mother couldn’t afford to keep me in the studio.Having recitals and Dancewear became to expensive. I was crushed I remember crying for days, being accepted into The Dance Program and knowing that I was able to continue my passion kept me distracted from having to leave my 2nd home at the studio. I was a good kid in terms of not getting in trouble outside of the house, I would go out but when I was home I was often confined to my bedroom or basement using them as my personal dance studio. I wasn’t that big on Hip Hop in my early teens I was usually choreographing modern pieces to The Delerium album or Sexxy (burlesque style) routines to Madonna’s Immaculate collection, MJ’s Dangerous album or Janet the album. I’m pretty sure the first song I choreographed to was Rhythm Nation for our grade 5 talent show. Growing up I was usually described by friends as Nikki the Dancer.
I graduated from Cawthra with a Major in Dance which focused on Ballet and Modern as well as Dance History, Kinesiology and Eating Disorders. Hip Hop was only offered in after school dance clubs which I was always a part of. Attending an Arts school gave me the opportunity to tap into other areas beyond my major in Dance. I was able to minor in Musical Theatre in my last 2 years which focused on Vocal, Stage Performance, Acting and Theatre Dance. I also took 2 years of photography learning in a dark room with real film. I remember some of the1st abnormally large digital’s WoW (I’m aging myself lol) I continue to take photo’s my preference being clouds and landscapes, always being inspired I walk with my camera everywhere. In hindsight I could say that I should have continued my training in a post secondary facility but my life didn’t quite go that way.
In my last year of high school my Mother and Step Father bought a house in a city an hour away. I did not want to leave the Arts School and decided to stay with my older sister to allow me to graduate from the Dance Department. I had worked part time as a cashier since I was 15 years old.I was never really big on school and didn’t think of what I was going to do once I graduated. With no solid plans to go to a post secondary dance program, working had to be done since I was no longer living at home. I was 17 learning how to be responsible for myself paying rent and having bills. Right around that time I was offered a job through family. I remember not wanting to take it but a handful of family members worked there, great Income, benefits you know the things you “NEED” in life. Now I’m very close to my family and no one could see a future in dance, this job seemed to be the answer for me. I was at a weak moment in my life and took the easy way out…So I thought! My priorities somehow got conflicted and I was now working full time before I could even vote. It was a factory job that consumed half of my life working 12hr continental shifts for 8 years straight the youngest and only female in my department. I struggled trying to juggle both dancing and the job for the first 2 years dancing with 2 different crews performing in showcases around the GTA. Eventually it became to much on myself and the crews, the job was interfering with me being at rehearsals and shows. At that time I couldn’t afford to miss work again my priorities were conflicted, being a fulltime dancer in a crew rehearsing and doing shows that I wasn’t being paid for wasn’t logical to me at that time. The brain was ruling my Heart back then. When I left the crew I had no clue what to do I’d always gone to a studio or been in a crew. My work schedule was so demanding and consuming, I was caught up and let’s face it comfortable. I moved up in the company quickly holding one of the highest positions in my department. I was receiving benefits and making more money than I knew what to do with. It didn’t buy me happiness I tell you that!!!!! I don’t ever remember making a conscious decision to stop dancing….it just happened :( ?!?!?
I’ve been through some trials and tribulations like we all have after going 3 and a half years with no real Dance Life I found myself very depressed and lost. For as long as I could remember I was always creating and performing. The company I worked for to no fault of there own did not allow me to express who I really was. I would see Dance shows and performances and this overwhelming void would consume me. I had left the Dance scene for many years but Dance was still in my heart. Around the age of 23 I ended up joining a group of Dancers on a Trip to L.A where I trained intensively for 2 weeks. That trip made me realize that I needed to Dance again. I had grown to love Hip Hop and started searching for a place that offered classes in Toronto. Luther Brown was teaching a Master Class on sundays. I admired Luther and his work since I started following The Hip Hop Dance scene in Toronto. Luther would pick small groups of dancers to do his routine at the end of class. I remember trying to hide lol ( I really tried to hide)!! I was not killing the choreography but he picked me! Nervous as hell I got up and did my best, the fact that Luther called me out gave me the boost and inspiration I needed to Dance again :) I continued to take classes with Luther, Tuch, Danny Davalos, Tre Armstrong, Lenny and Ron as well as work My full time consuming job. I finally decided to leave the company for my Sanity and Happiness at the age of 26 :)
**Merks** going hard after such a long break from dancing left me suffering some serious injuries to my neck and right knee. It is so Important to stretch and condition, something I took for granted. I wasn’t 16 anymore the body isn’t as resilient after 25. Now I’ve accepted that being a FULLTIME performing Dancer may not be in my future ….But personally it’s made me realize that there is so much more to being a Dancer, Performer and Creator than that FOR ME!!! I am still connected to the industry I will attend auditions, do shows, teach classes, and take classes when my body allows. I’ve had the pleasure of dancing in videos and Live performances for Canadian artists like August, Kim Davis, Carl Henry, Divine Brown and Trish. Working with choreographers Leon Blackwood, Mark Samuels,Tre Armstrong, Carla Catherwood, Hollywood Jade and more. Performing at major events like TIFF, Pride and Toronto Choreographer’s ball. I’ve also modelled for Budweiser, Total Fashion magazine, LG Fashion Week as well as Promo Model for Victoria Secret, CMT, and the Rally for Kids with Cancer.
Dance is one of my first Loves and I will FOREVER be involved in it some way or another. My advice…. “Never give up when you still have something to give. Nothing is over until the moment you stop trying.” ~unknown
CHECK ME OUT IN LEON BLACKWOODS CLASS…..LOVE HIS CHOREO (I’m in all black) :) XO
CHECK OUT THIS RECENT PERFORMANCE DANCING FOR THE TALENTED KIM DAVIS ALONG SIDE GI GI