This week’s Dancer/Choreographer feature goes out to Chris Clarke.
Chris has 12 years experience as a Choreographer. Chris is the Choreographer and Artistic Director for Nexx Level Dance & Theatre Entertainment. Chris has experience as a teacher and choreographer in many competitive studios in the GTA and he has also been a judge at several competitions.
Chris runs a successful dance and theatre company that continues to be the doorway for a large percentage of dancers to walk into Toronto’s dance industry and become stage ready for the world of dance.
He specializes in performance training, technique building, and combines theatrics with execution. Chris has a unique brand of creative direction and concepts, while harnessing individuality and dancer development.
Check out what Chris had to say in this week’s feature…
Nikki: Do you remember the first time you started dancing?
Chris: I started dancing when I first saw Janet Jacksons “IF” on an episode of Much Music’s show called Xtendamix hosted by Master T. I was 10 at the time.
Nikki: Do you remember the first song you choreographed to? (Or your earliest memory)
Chris: Of Course I do, it was “More Money More Problems” by Puff Daddy feat Mase and Notorious B.I.G for Cawthra Live, which was put on at our school Cawthra Park School of The Arts.
Nikki: Your personal advice for dancers when it comes to free styling?
Chris: Don’t think just obey the music and let it come. Every freestyle is different because it’s about what the song is trying to say or how it makes you feel.
Nikki: Getting in the zone to choreograph, what does it take for you?
Chris: It takes the right frame of mind and the right song; I tend to choreograph on the spot so the song choice plays a large role in what I create or how much I feel like creating.
Nikki: Who are some of your biggest influences in the Dance industry?
Chris: I will say that I wanted to name 3 biggest ones but I have to have 5 cause I can’t leave any of these people off the list, they are all necessary to me.
Wade Robson who I refer to as genius is everything to me, he embodies a certain universal way of movement that I definitely identified with from the first time I saw him dance. When you look at Slave 4 U you realize just how much he focuses on what the song is saying because he choreographed that to suit Britney perfectly.
Luther Brown is a big influence to me as he is a Jamaican Born Canadian Choreographer so I’m proud of that as I am born in Jamaican and now am Canadian now but more importantly he is one of the most distinct choreographers to ever create as he has so many signature ways of executing and his thoughts and creations are passionate original and amazing.
Tina Landon is brilliant to me when you look at Janet Jackson again you realize just how much Tina knew how to give Janet what she needed in order to shut it down video after video and performance after performance. Tina’s choreography is electric. It’s sexy, unapologetic, risqué, clean, sharp, and line driven.
Mark Samuels is a huge influence because he is a consummate professional and a master technician when it comes to execution. He represents everything a dancer would want from themselves, he’s humble but crazy talented. His choreography is just as amazing as his dancing which always blows me away. He has been so many places and done so many things but still has such an amazing sense of self and who he is.
Bob Fosse is a huge inspiration to me; he is genius. Genius in the way he taught choreography and the lines and stylistic variables in his movement He literally designed a whole new way to move and although his style was created a long time ago it still remains relevant in so many dance forms today. There are so many artists who continue to use his style and influence as the template for great shows and amazing stage presence and delivery.
Nikki: Name a Toronto Choreographer you enjoy working with and why?
Chris: I really enjoy working with Leon Blackwood, especially now that we are grown people I see the gift he has and it constantly reminds me to push harder for more from myself and the dancers I work with the way he does.
Nikki: Name one of your favorite artists to work with and why? (It does not have to be a pop star. Any type of artist that a Dancer would work with i.e.; another Dancer, Choreographer, Musician etc.)
Chris: I love working with Teineisha Richards, who danced in Rukus and now dances in my company. She continues to evolve so rapidly and I feel like she just gets better and better the more choreography I get to put on her. Funny enough, she is a recording artist now and the work we are doing on that inspires me also (so I guess that covers artist “pop star” lol).
Nikki: Qualities you believe Toronto Dancers possess?
Chris: Toronto dancers possess a worldly quality because of the diverse backgrounds of all these creative people. A lot of the time the trends don’t give credit to their origin but there are so many stylistic nuances that Toronto spear headed and then the entertainment world jumped on it and left us out of the Thank You’s lol. Toronto dancers are individual but universal at the same time.
Nikki: Any advice for emerging dancers and choreographers working/training in Toronto?
Chris: This Dance thing isn’t about you, it’s about the ones that will need you to open doors for them and the ones that opened doors for you so that you can now fulfill the obligation and continue the work that was started way before any of us knew we loved this art form. When you strive forward be aware of that and find purpose in pushing for the bigger picture. Love this art and respect it and the people who made it available to you. I have so much respect for all those who did this before me, i.e. Luther Brown and DoDat, Jae Blaze, Rukus, Tanisha Scott, Shawn Byfield, and so many more.
Nikki: Are there any upcoming projects, shows or classes you would like to share/promote to the T.D.O.T. network?
Chris: I have a piece in Choreographers Ball coming up on December 22, 2016 at the MOD Club Theatre and I have a Rihanna Show coming March 2017.