This weeks Dancer/Choreographer shout out goes to Danny Lawn. Danny began training at the late age of 12, at a small studio in Brockville, Ontario. He jumped right into competitive dance and fell instantly in love. After only one year of training in jazz, ballet, and minimal tap, he knew this was his passion! Danny trained for three years at the Brockville Thrill Dancers before leaving and continuing his training at Denise Smith Dance Studio in Manotick, Ontario. He began to broaden his horizons and train extensively in jazz, tap, ballet, contemporary, acro, and hip hop with some of the countries most influential choreographers.
Nikki:Do you remember the first time you started dancing?
Danny: The first time I remember dancing was when I was 12 years old and was cast in the children’s chorus of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”. I had watched my sister dance for as long as I could remember and knew there was something about it that I loved, but that was the first time I had ever tried. A year later, at the age of 13, I started dancing competitively at a studio in my hometown of Brockville, Ontario.
Nikki: Do you remember the first song you choreographed to? (Or your earliest memory)
Danny: The first song I ever choreographed to was “Rhythm of the Night”. SO embarrassing hahaha I was 14 when I choreographed this group and was so in love with the idea of making up my own routines and experimenting with different visual transitions and formation patterns. I was so lucky to have a studio owner who gave me the opportunity to expand on my passion and explore different venues. Without that free reign, who would have known if I had realized my passion for choreography?
Nikki: Your personal advice for dancers when it comes to free styling?
Danny: I used to hate free styling!!! I thought it was something that you were born with the ability to do and that it just came naturally to certain people. My biggest piece of advice for dancers when it comes to free styling is to train it like you would train technique. Anyone can be good at free styling as long as you clear your mind, take your time, listen to your body, and forget about anyone else who may be in the room. You can’t ever be “bad” at free styling. Everyone moves in a way that’s unique to him or her. Take the time to study your body and what feels comfortable to you and it will come naturally with time.
Nikki: Getting in the zone to choreograph, what does it take for you?
Danny: In order for me to choreograph I have to be in the right mood. I’m never able to create movement when I’m tired or forced to do so. I have to be inspired, both by movement and by a song, and when it comes to routines I usually need to be inspired by a concept as well. It also helps when I have my assistant with me during the process because I often get distracted and stuck at certain parts and can’t go on without help.
Nikki: Who are some of your biggest influences in the Dance industry?
Danny: I’ve been influenced by lots of people in the dance industry, but some of the choreographers who I’ve worked closely with and who have inspired me in both dance and choreography are TOKYO, Shannon Mather, Stacey Tookey and Dee Caspary. All three move and choreograph in such different and unique ways from one another, but are all equally as talented and passionate. I love and appreciate TOKYO’s flexibility techniques and movement quality, Shannon’s hard-hitting and powerful choreography, Stacey’s conceptual partnering and technical movement, and Dee’s fluidity and insane musicality.
Nikki: Name a Toronto Choreographer you enjoy working with and why?
Danny: There are numerous Toronto choreographers whom I enjoy working with, however I’ve had the pleasure of working very closely with Linda Garneau, Eryn Waltman, and Tiff MacLean these past 3 years, and have become the dancer I am today because of it. Linda’s free and organic, yet technical movement is like no other and the atmosphere in her rehearsals is the most fun and enjoyable. Eryn’s intricate and musical choreography has challenged my mind and body in so many different ways and working so closely with her has expanded my knowledge and ability immensely, and without Tiff I would not have even half of the technique or passion for dance that I have today.
Nikki: Name one of your favorite artists to work with and why?
Danny: One of my favorite artists to work with by far is Shawn Desman. I worked with him on his music video for “Shiver” and have never had so much fun on set before. He was so kind and generous and always did whatever he could to make all of us comfortable and happy. He was so much fun to work with and I hope I’ll get the chance to do so again in the future.
Nikki: Are you currently working on any projects?
Danny: Right now I’m guest performing at various industrial events, competitions, and galas along with teaching workshops across the country. I just finished filming a new Disney movie entitled “Frenemies” and am currently doing work on another movie entitled “COBU 3D”. I also just recently got approved for my working visa in the states and am planning on moving to LA this summer.
Nikki: What was it like being part of SYTYCDC Top 20 season 3?
Danny: Being a part of the Top 20 of SYTYCDC Season 2 was an intense rollercoaster of emotions, but an incredibly amazing experience at the same time. It taught me so much about dance and so much about myself as a person. It made me so much more versatile than I was going into it and instilled a very big appreciation for other styles of dance in me. I look back on it now and wish more than anything I could do it over again, but I still had such a blast and came out of it with the most amazing lifelong friends on the planet.
Nikki: Qualities you think Toronto Dancers possess?
Danny: I feel as though Toronto dancers are the hardest working and most persistent dancers around. They’re also some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met. Moving to Toronto from a small town without knowing a single person was terrifying, but it helped a great deal when after the first class I took at OIP people were introducing themselves, getting my number and showing interest in getting to know me. I look forward to going to auditions in Toronto because you know that everyone’s working their absolute hardest and fighting until the end, but the second you leave the studio it’s like a big giant reunion. The work ethic and atmosphere in this city is like no other and I’m so proud to say that I’m a part of it.
Nikki: Any advice for emerging dancers and choreographers working/training in Toronto?
Danny: If I were to give advice to emerging dancers planning on working in Toronto, it would be to always be in class training and to attend every audition that comes through the city. Being in class not only works your technique and ability to pick up choreography on a regular basis, but it keeps your face out there and on choreographer’s minds. So many jobs come from people you know or have taken class from so it’s always important to be fresh in those people’s minds. As for auditions, it’s so important to make it a priority to attend each and every one even if you feel like it may not pertain to you. You never know what the casting director is looking for regardless of whether it’s for that particular job or for upcoming projects. It’s so important to be fresh in everyone’s minds.