Archive | July, 2011


25 Jul

This Weeks Dancer/Choreographer shout out goes to Annie Chen. Annie’s foundation for a career in Dance began at the age of 4 in her native of Taiwan. When she was 5 her family moved to Vancouver, BC before settling in Toronto at the age of 13.  Annie continued to Dance at a recreational level attending classes once or twice a week. With her passion for Dance she auditioned for The Etobicoke School of Arts. She was accepted and began to train intensively in Contemporary and Ballet. Upon graduation she continued her Dance education at The School of Toronto Dance Theatre. Having been trained by some of Canada’s leading instructors it is no surprise that Annie has found a way to build a career in Dance. Now in her early 20’s she has found her self choreographing and performing for Canada’s up and coming Electro Pop group Candy Coated Killaz. She can also be seen in the Bravo Fact film Season’s of Change choreographed by Allen Kaeja. 

Annie has been able to perform in live shows across the city working with some of Toronto’s most noted choreographers at major events like Canada’s Dance Festival, T-Pain’s concert, MMVA’s and The Choreographers Ball. She’s recently joined the Burlesque group “Nuvo” and continues to perform and train with many contemporary and hip hop choreographers. Proof that hard work and dedication pay off find out what Annie had to say in this weeks shout out. 

Bio by Nikki

Nikki: Do you remember the first time you started dancing?
Annie: I first started dancing when I was living in Taiwan at 4 years old. I remember sweating my butt off all the time and staining the beautiful tutus my mom would buy me for ballet class. Sorry MA! 
Nikki: Do you remember the first song you choreographed to? (Or your earliest memory)
Annie: The first song I choreographed to was actually Christina Aguilera’s first album “What a Girl Wants” I was 13 years old and had just moved to Toronto from Vancouver and was really shy and didn’t know very many people yet so I would just jam out in my room whenever I had time. 
Nikki: Your personal advice for dancers when it comes to free styling?
Annie: JUST DO IT!! hahaha I use to black out when I had to freestyle at auditions. I came from a classical modern contemporary background so we never had to freestyle much in training. Don’t worry it gets much better!! Don’t beat yourself down if you don’t get it the first couple of times. Listen to your body and especially the music. Invite others into your world. It takes practice to get in the pocket. I would say if your a technical thinker then plan out a couple of moves that you like to do then at least you have a base to work with, and all you have to do is fill in the blanks. Also a big thing to remember is that you can’t do anything “wrong” as long as you believe what your doing is hype so will your audience. 
Nikki: Getting in the zone to choreograph, what does it take for you?
Annie: It depends on what I feel that day. It could be a really dope piece of music or a really interesting idea or concept. What really gets me going is when I jam to my iPod when it’s put on shuffle. That way I don’t think too much I react by instinct because I don’t know what kind of music is coming up next and that’s where I believe the true authentic movements are created- from natural instincts. 
Nikki: Who are some of your biggest influences in the Dance industry?
Annie: wow…. there are so many people that inspire me in this industry its crazy! Definitely my fellow dancers I love seeing everyone grow and it pushes me and makes me want to be a better and stronger dancer. 
Nikki: Name a Toronto Choreographer you enjoy working with and why?
Annie: Although living in the States she is from Toronto! hahaha I recently had the chance to work with Laurie Ann Gibson for the Lady Gaga MMVA show. She is just so powerful and can give you Goosebumps just with her presence in the room. I would love to be able to read her mind. HAHA! 
Nikki: Name one of your favorite artists to work with and why?
Annie: One of my favorite artists to work with would be a Toronto based band called Candy Coated Killahz. 
They’re album just released in stores everywhere last week! I love working with them because they are just such outgoing and laid back people. They’re music and they’re overall image has a very quirky side to it which really interests me. I also had a lot of freedom and say when I was choreographing they’re songs which always makes the process more enjoyable. 
Nikki: Are you currently working on any projects?
Annie: Currently I do have a couple things in line but my biggest project is ME. haha! I’ve just been rehearsing so much that I haven’t had time to really focus on developing myself and training myself the way I want as an artist. Before all this I danced for Lady Gaga at the MMVA, shot a music video for Candy Coated Killahz (which will be out soon), opened for T-Pain at one of his concerts in Barrie, performed on Much Music with the band that I am currently working with, worked with EMDT on a piece and is part of their company. Also numerous live shows such as Choreographer’s Ball, Pride, Canadian Music Festival, and working with Carla Catherwood on her Chic-a-Boom Room shows. It has been hectic!! 
Nikki: Qualities you think Toronto Dancers possess?
Annie: I think that Toronto dancers possess true personality. We all express ourselves through movement differently and are all individuals (not factory made machines). I can’t think of one dancer who can be replaced by another and not change the dynamic or feel of whatever the choreography is. 
Nikki: Any advice for emerging dancers and choreographers working/training in Toronto?
Annie: Confidence is key!! If you don’t believe in yourself- you WILL get eaten alive. Network your butt off! So many jobs come from people you know, so make sure that your face is always present. Also be humble and have respect for one another as a dancer or choreographer. It’s still a dance community even though it doesn’t always seem that way. I believe that everyone should be accepting of one another and help each other out in any way that we can. 


18 Jul

This weeks Dancer/Choreographer shout out goes to another personal fave La Toya Robinson. La Toya aka MsToya Robinson, has been dancing since she was able to walk. She was put into dance by her parents when she was just 3 years old and has been dancing ever since! Technically trained in ballet, tap, jazz and gymnastics, she competed across North America with one of Canada’s top dance studio, Canadian Dance Company. Travelling to America’s top dance competition in South Carolina, MsToya and her studio won many championship titles and appeared on various TV shows. With the support of her parents, MsToya excelled at dance, but also in the world of sports. Playing baseball, volleyball, basketball and running track, she was named MVP in high school and played on many winning teams! Her love of sports continued past high schools as she ventured on to work with almost all the major sports teams in Toronto. Starting in 2002, she was a dancer/cheerleader for the Toronto Blue Jays J-Cru, dancing at home games and pumping up the crowd during innings. For 3 seasons from 2002-2005, she was a part of the Toronto Raptors Dance Pak, dancing at all home games, doing charity work in the community and even travelling to El Paso, Texas and Newfoundland for some preseason games! In 2008 and 2009, MsToya worked with the Toronto Argonauts cheerleaders choreographing routines performed on field at the games and the CFL Grey Cup weekend. This past year, MsToya has had the opportunity to work with the Toronto Rock Lacrosse team cheerleaders choreographing game day routines for them!

MsToya has also worked with the most sought after video director Little X, dancing in videos such as “Pon Di Replay” by Rihanna, Keisha Chante’s “Bad Boy”, and Mario’s “Let Me Love You”. In 2006, she performed with R&B singer Massari at the JUNO awards in Halifax and the Canadian Urban Music Awards in Toronto. Dancing for Massari she has had the opportunity to travel and see the world while doing what she loves. They have toured all over Europe, Australia, North Africa and the Middle East. In 2007, MsToya was one of two dancers chosen to perform alongside Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas at the Much Music Video Awards in Toronto. In 2008, she performed with Akon, Kardinal Offishall and Flo Rida at the MMVA’s again and finally in 2009, with the Black Eyed Peas! Recently she’s appeared on major network programs like So You Think You Can Dance Canada assisting head judge Tre Armstrong and Choreographer/judge Luther Brown. As well as dancing for Divine Brown at the 2011 CityTV New Years Eve Bash!MsToya will be teaching a Jazz Funk workshop next Tues July 26th at the National Ballet School.  Check out what she had to say in this weeks shout out.

Bio provided by MsToya

Nikki: Do you remember the first time you started dancing?
MsToya: Yes!!! I was 3 or 4 and I did a ballet number to “How Much is that Doggy in the Window” LOL!! I was so excited, for the performance I had my little pound puppy on stage with me. I remember my mom yelling at me to smile, and my dance teacher dragging me off stage at the end.
Nikki: Do you remember the first song you choreographed to? (Or your earliest memory)
MsToya: The earliest memory would have to be when my brother and I would put together dance routines to all Milli Vanilli songs and pretend we were them. We would put on concerts and perform them for our family at get togethers and my dad would spin the records…Yes, I said records LOL! I wish I could find those tapes! 
Nikki: Your personal advice for dancers when it comes to free styling?
MsToya: I find it easier when you don’t think about it. Just let the music move you and try not to force it! What helps me is putting my iPod on shuffle and freestyling to whatever comes trying to feel the mood and musicality of each song. 

Nikki: Getting in the zone to choreograph, what does it take for you?

MsToya: It’s waaaaaay easier for me to get in the zone to choreograph when I’m feeling the track. I like falling to sleep with the track playing and when I wake up the ideas and moves are flowing. This often happens late at night and I end up waking out of my sleep and filming my ideas and going back to bed…Meh, works for me! Ha

Nikki: Who are some of your biggest influences in the Dance industry?

MsToya: I would have to say that 2 of my biggest influences are the studio directors/teachers at the studio I grew up at, Canadian Dance Company. Dawn and Allain Lupien taught me all the basics in and outside of dance that has helped me get to where I am today. As disciplinarians they taught me how to hone my passion for dance and performing through hard work, perseverance and determination. The hours upon hours of dance rehearsals and living at the studio have definitely paid off and I’m grateful for them both!
Nikki: Name a Toronto Choreographer you enjoy working with and why?
MsToya: I looove working with Jae Blaze and Luther Brown!! They definitely have a passion, style, energy and vision in their work that I find inspiring. They have done so much for the dance industry in Toronto as well, you gotta love it! 
Nikki: Name one of your favorite artists to work with and why?
MsToya: Artists that have are hands on and passionate with their show are definitely artists that are fun to work with. I enjoy working with Massari a lot. Have been with him since 2005 and he is always evolving and is such a hard worker. Not to mention I’ve been able to travel the world to places I’ve never heard of and do what I love doing…performing! 
Nikki: Are you currently working on any projects?
MsToya: Right now, I’m working with a few local artists on creating their stage shows as well as teaching more workshops around Toronto! I will be heading overseas to teach at the end of the summer, so I’m excited about that!  

Nikki: Qualities you think Toronto Dancers possess?

MsToya: I think Toronto dancers have a drive and determination like no other. We know how hard it can be since jobs can be few and far between and when crossing over to the States Canadians are so successful because they don’t take anything for granted! 
Nikki: Any advice for emerging dancers and choreographers working/training in Toronto? 
MsToya: You really have to put the time in and train, invest, develop and love your craft. Look at every situation as a learning experience. You have to love what you do and work hard at it. Know your worth and don’t settle for anything less! 🙂







11 Jul
This weeks Dancer/Choreographer shout out goes to Shameka Blake. Shameka started dancing at the early age of three.  Shortly thereafter, her family migrated from Jamaica to Canada where over the years she further developed her dancing. Shameka has performed in numerous concerts, tours, productions and live shows. She has shared the stage with artists such as Ne-yo and Mobb Deep and has opened tours for Kayne West, Lil Jon, and Ciara. Shameka has worked with SYTYCDC hip hop judge and choreographer Luther Brown as a principal dancer in his productions “On My Way Home” and “The Red City.” She can be seen on MTV’s MADE and the latest XboxDance Central commercial. In 2008, after graduating from the George Brown College’s Commercial Dance Program, she started her dance company Artists In Motion (AIM), a multidisciplinary dance group that brings together different styles of dance under the same roof.  In 3 short years AIM has attained a great deal of success, such as: winning the NML Best Dance Crew; starring in commercials for Xbox and Much Music; dancing for artists such as Lady Gaga, Snoop Dog, Divine Brown, and Flo Rida. With her unique style of dance and choreography, Shameka has taken the Toronto dance scene by storm…and she’s only getting started! 

 Shameka Blake- Director/Founder/Choreographer

Innovative Powerful and UniqueArtists in Motion is a multidisciplinary dance group with some of the best dancers and choreographers in North America. They bridge the gap by bringing together different styles of dance such as Hip Hop, African, Dancehall, Contemporary,  Ballroom and a fusion of different genres. As a collective they have performed in numerous award shows, movies, stage shows, and music videos. Some of Artists In Motion members appeared in Cobu 3D, Walt Disney’s Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam with the Jonas Brothers and Hairspray. A.I.M are the winners of Muchmusic’s New.Music.Live Best Dance Crew and is featured in Xbox’s Dance Central commercial. Further more they have worked with international artists such as Lady Gaga, Snoop Dogg, Divine Brown, Deborah Cox, Hilary Duff, Nelly Furtado, Flo Rida, Jully Black and Hedley. They have participated in the Much Music Video Awards, Taste of the Danforth Festival, World Partnership Walk, The Toronto International Film Festival and North America’s largest Pride Festival.  Artists In Motion prides itself on educating and teaching individuals to strive for their best. They are professionals who are passionate about the art of dance and committed to the exponential growth of the industry here in Canada. “From an early age, I knew Dance would play a significant role in my life.” – Shameka Blake

Find out what Shameka had to say in this weeks shout out.
Bio provided by Shameka
Twitter @aimtoronto
Facebook: AIM Group Page
Nikki: Do you remember the first time you started dancing?
Shameka: I was still living in Jamaica and was in Grade one. It was at a school concert and my class performed an Afro Caribbean song and dance to The Banana Boat Song.
Nikki: Do you remember the first song you choreographed to? (Or your earliest memory)
Shameka: My earliest memory of making up choreography was my early years in Jamaica choreographing Dancehall routines to Shaggy’s “Oh Carolina” and Chaka Demus and Plyas “Murda She Wrote”
Nikki: Your personal advice for dancers when it comes to free styling?
Shameka: Let go! Free your mind and feel the music. Once your mind is free your body will naturally become in tune with the music. You will be able to communicate between your body and soul and express what is too deep for words.
Nikki: Getting in the zone to choreograph, what does it take for you?
Shameka: What I do is probably referred to as “sleep dancing.” I actually wake up between 2 and 3am (every night) and start choreographing to music I hear in my head or a song that has inspired me. I usually never remember in full what I make up so I’ve started recording myself. Haha
Nikki: Who are some of your biggest influences in the Dance industry?
Shameka:I have a plethora of influences from all different walks of life and the following individuals I feel defines dance for me as a whole. Alvin Alley is the beginning, a legend. I can only hope that one day my choreography and abilities will reach the depth and clarity of his works. Then there is Miss Debbie Allen; I admire her passion, intensity and longevity in this industry. Luam for her raw energy and positivity.  Luther Brown. He has placed the Toronto Urban dance scene on the map, “Nuff Respect” Mr. Brown. And last but certainly not least, Tuch!  If I was a male dancer, I would like to be Tuch! The way he moves is unreal and his choreography is thought provoking, motivating and powerful.
Nikki: Name a Toronto Choreographer you enjoy working with and why?  
Shameka: My fellow Artists in Motion company member Esie Mensah is my favorite choreographer to work with. She understands who I am. We have been working together for the past 4 years, which has allowed us to know each other on all levels. As a result we are able to be open and honest, critique each other’s work without egos and emotions getting in the way. We tell each other the truth and that’s a rear quality to find in this industry. My success is her success and vise versa. 
Nikki: Name one of your favorite artists to work with and why?
Shameka: One artist I enjoy working with is Chad Huges. Chad is a pop rock artist who truly cares about the wellbeing of his dancers. He goes out of his way to make sure they are well looked after.  He is full of positivity, and such a joy to be around.
Nikki: Are you currently working on any projects?
Shameka:  I have a lot of things coming up with the company. We are hosting a summer intensive on July 17th at Joy of Dance. We will be competing at The Beat Down Dance Competition on August 6th. That same weekend you can catch us performing at the Taste of the Danforth Festival. Also, Company members are doing the Fringe Festival with Catalyst, Lauren Lyn is Competing on SYTYCDCanada. Hollywood is doing Tours for Mia Martina and Alyssa Rubino. While Kristian Dalisay and Justin David will be performing at Summer Rush with Danny Fernandez. We have lots of other things in the works but we are really excited for our upcoming fall production Pandora’s Box.
Nikki: Qualities you think Toronto Dancers possess?
Shameka: Versatility and determination. Toronto is known for it’s cultural diversity and with that comes an array of different dance forms. A melting pot of cultural and urban dance styles allows Toronto dancers to be more open to expanding artistically. Furthermore, because the dance community here is so small and there are a lot more dancers than job opportunities there is a consistent drive to reach the top. Determination is the key to success and Toronto dancers are full of it.
Nikki: Any advice for emerging dancers and choreographers working/training in Toronto?
Shameka: With hard work and determination, ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE. Limitations live only in our minds. But if you use your imagination, your possibilities become limitless. Remember you choose to create your own reality.THANK YOU SHAMEKA FOR BEING PART OF T.D.O.T. XOAIM PERFORMING AT BAZAAR DISNEY EDITION…..



5 Jul
This weeks shout out goes to 1 of My Favorite Dancers/Choreographers and Mentors Kojo Mayne better known as TUCH!! 
From an early age music and dance played a significant role in Tuch’s life, and through Toronto’s premiere entertainment company – Do Dat Entertainment – he transformed his passion for the arts into reality. Tuch has risen to the top of his craft as a sought after dancer and choreographer known for his dancing abilities & professionalism.
Tuch joined Luther Brown’s Do Dat Entertainment in 1998, and since then has performed with top musicians and entertainers, such as Shawn Desman, Eve, Gwen Stefani, Missy Elliott, and Jully Black.  He’s worked with Sean Paul, Rihanna, Danny Fernandes, Christina Aguilera, and Jay-Z in music videos and commercials.  In addition, Tuch has appeared in numerous television/film and stage productions, such as the 2010 Olympic Torch Ceremony, Bell’s Celebrity Gala, E! News Weekend, the motion picture Honey featuring Jessica Alba, the Junos & BET Awards.
With more than 10 years of experience in dance, Tuch is a fixture in the Toronto arts scene, teaching hip-hop classes and workshops in Canada/ Israel/ Mexico and Germany, and has had the fortune to assist choreographer Luther Brown on So You Think You Can Dance Canada. 
Recently, Tuch has added the renowned Jully Black and up & coming recording artists Candy Coated Killahz, Trish (Capitol Records) & Jaime (Sony/ BMG HK) to his choreography credits. Look out for FUTURE projects! Find out what Tuch had to say in this weeks shout out……..
Bio provided by Do Dat Ent.
Nikki: Do you remember the first time you started dancing?
Tuch: I really don’t remember the first time I started dancing. I just remember my earliest memories of dancing, was watching Michael Jackson and Bobby Brown music videos and trying to copy their dance moves.
Nikki: Do you remember the first song you choreographed to? (Or your earliest memory)
Tuch: Most likely I was making up dances for a while. But the first time I remember having to make up a dance for someone other than myself was in high school for a talent show. It was by Brandy ft. Heavy D, a remake of Michael Jackson’s classic “ Rock With You”! …Hahahaa, I wish I could see it now, it was probably WACK! …. But I remember the girls loved it. 😉
Nikki: What advice can you give to dancers when it comes to free styling?
Tuch: My advice is that you just got to do you. That’s what it is! A lot of times I hear dancers say they don’t know how to freestyle or they can’t freestyle. But in this business you have to be prepared for it all! I’m not saying you have to be the best freestyler, but if you can only dance if someone gives you the steps, you may have a problem. 
Nikki: What does it take for you to get into choreography mode?
Tuch: For me it’s all about the music and where it takes me. When I’m at my best, the music says it all to me! It governs how I move and creates the steps. I’m very much one of those people who choreograph to lyrics and meanings, as well as the vibe and energy of the music. So it’s really hard for me to get in the mode when the music doesn’t inspire me. 
Nikki: Name some of your biggest influences in the Dance industry?
Tuch: Hard question. There are so many existing and up and coming talented dancers and choreographers that my influences change daily in so many levels. However, for me and my time coming up in this dance game, artists and their CHOREOGRAPHERS like Diddy, Janet, Usher, Aaliyah and Missy Elliott, who danced and had DANCERS DANCING in their videos and tours influenced me to continue to dance, and think of it more than just fun, but a career!
Nikki: Name a Toronto Choreographer you enjoy working with and why?
Tuch: Undoubtedly it would be Luther Brown! I had the privilege to start my career and grow and hone my skills under his supervision. As a dancer, his style of choreography/ groove clicked with me, and allowed me to more than just dance, but leave my heart on the stage. Working with such a TALENT is not work it’s a blessing.
Nikki: Name one of your favorite artists to work with and why?
Tuch: Hands down, one of my favorite artists to work with had to be Missy Elliott. As I stated above her style, flav, and her choreographers and dancers that have together created her image was very influential on me and what I love about dance. So when I got the opportunity to first audition in front of her, and then for her to pick me, was a HUGE moment for me!!  Another favorite artist though has to be Shawn Desman, who I’ve worked with since his very first music video YEARS ago! We’re still killing stages till this day! I consider him like my white bro, hahaa, so when we work together it’s like family. It’s always good!
Nikki: What projects are you working on right now?
Tuch: Things always continue to come up, but for right now I’m mainly busy performing with Shawn Desman, I’m working with some local talents like Candy Coated Killahz
Nikki: What qualities do you think Toronto Dancers possess?
Tuch: I think Toronto Dancers are very DETERMINED. They have a hunger and passion to show the World their gift, any way possible.
Nikki: Any advice for emerging dancers and choreographers working/training in Toronto?
Tuch: KNOW YOUR WORTH!!! It’s definitely not the easiest industry to work and train in. Opportunities at times can be scarce, but it doesn’t mean you have to let this industry “pimp” you out in order for you to feel like you’re advancing. Definitely there are times where we do gigs for less then what are talents are worth for the experience, exposure, perks, or LOVE. But if we constantly work for less than our worth, how can we expect our talents to be fully appreciated and compensated in this business. LOVE what you do, but just be SMART about it.


Check out Tuch’s Reel…