She has choreographed for such artists as T-Nile, The Midway State, DJ Havana Brown, Chris Willis and Addictiv and is currently a managing partner of Beso Entertainment based out of Toronto. She is also the Entertainment and Booking Agent for DivaGirl Entertainment (www.divagirlinc.com).
As a producer Vanessa has worked on multiple stage shows in the past 2 years and continues to build her own projects. She took an interest in Production last year when an injury forced her to re-evaluate being in the dance industry. “This role we put ourselves in as dancers is very strenuous on the body and mind. So when you’re forced to sit on the sidelines for a while you take that time to reflect. It made me realize that this industry is my home and my calling. Be it performing, creating, producing or directing, it’s my passion and goal to motivate young performers to be in the arts. Now I just want to learn more and grow as an artist and an individual.”
Nikki: Do you remember the first time you started dancing?
Vanessa: I actually didn’t start dancing until later in life. I got started in acting at about 10 but didn’t take dance seriously until my last year of high school. It started with a teen hip hop class that turned into me spending every night at the studio doing more classes. By the time I graduated I knew Acting had to be put on the back burner because I was so in love with dance. I ended up skipping out on the theatre programs I had always planned to go to, and studied Dance instead at Grant MacEwan College!
Nikki: Do you remember the first song you choreographed to? (Or your earliest memory)
Vanessa: Britney Spears- Overprotected! It was some girly dance we did for a showcase.
Nikki: Your personal advice for dancers when it comes to free styling?
Vanessa: PRACTICE! Dancers are always putting time and money and effort into classes. But one of your strongest strengths will always be your unique style. Turning on some music and forcing yourself to freestyle triggers you brain and body to connect more easily. You can find tricks that you like, your own rhythm and so much more in those sessions. Podium dancing once I was old enough was one of the greatest gigs I ever had to increase my stamina, flow and use of my body. I once did Podium for a casino where we would have 5 hour shifts. Now that was a way to push my limits!
Nikki: Getting in the zone to choreograph, what does it take for you?
Vanessa: Well I always freestyle before I choreograph. Just to get into the flow of what I am doing, and to warm up my mind/body connection. Some choreographers really need to be inspired by music. I’m the opposite. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in the song I am working with I hit a “writers block”. That’s when I will turn on a totally different song and try out what I already have to it. It breaks up the flow you may have been stuck on and ends up making my choreography more diverse. Once I have done a few 8 counts to the different music, I will go back to what I was working with and it always feels fresh again.
Nikki: Who are some of your biggest influences in the Dance industry?
Vanessa: There are so many! Because I work in the business side of dance I have mentors that are all over the map. Here in Toronto I currently work with Laura Furtado (DivaGirl) and Carla Catherwood (CMC Entertainment) on The Chic-A-Boom Room. These two ladies are amazing at what they do and how they do it. When I am around them I always feel like I am learning so much both as a dancer and as a Producer. I also have a big spot in the heart for Errol Prince Cenita (Trick Nasty Crew) who is based in Brisbane, Australia. He heads up a studio out there called Fresh Elements that is teaching the true history and proper basics of Hip Hop. Working with someone who has so much knowledge of the business and the lowest ego I’ve ever seen is such an honour. His students are the future of Hip Hop and yet have a respect and desire to keep the old styles alive. The world needs more teachers like him.
Nikki: What made you decide to move from Calgary to Toronto?
Vanessa: Toronto is just such a hub when it comes to the arts. You can find everything here! The training is incomparable and working in a “scene” where you get to know the people in your industry has so much benefit. Your career becomes like a snowball effect, where each person you meet and every gig you do leads to the next and the next. Plus the weather is just so much nicer 😉
Nikki: Name a Toronto Choreographer you enjoy working with and why?
Vanessa: I love the work I have done with Carla Catherwood. She is just such a powerhouse of talent. I always feel like she pushes me to get better and work harder, but while supporting me at the same time. I also love the way she empowers a whole room full of women by mixing her style, humour and excitement into her classes. As a choreographer she has a good eye for pieces that entertain and entice the senses. She is definitely one of my favorites in TO right now.
Nikki: Name one of your favorite artists to work with and why?
Vanessa: The one and only Pastel Supernova. She is an absolute superstar on so many levels. She has such a love for what she does and it always shows when you work with her. I love when an artist has more than one title too! Pastel is a singer, dancer, choreographer, model, pin-up and business woman! She is a true inspiration to dancers who haven’t yet figured out how to brand themselves!
Nikki: Are you currently working on any projects?
Vanessa: Speaking of Pastel, I am about to Co-Produce a new show with her based around her Love Letters series. The show is a cabaret style night that celebrates the love of beauty, class and the inescapable power of a Lady. We are auditioning for 10 dancers at the end of this month and aim to have to show in February! I also currently work with The Chic-A-Boom Room which holds bi-monthly cabaret shows that showcase the ladies of Carla Catherwood’s Nuvo-Burlesque! Those are just a couple of the projects I am working with these days but I am also performing in shows, hosting a weekly Open Mic Night at the Double Deuce Saloon and mentoring a handful of young artists right now both in the dance and music industry! But hey, if you’re not busy, you’re bored!
Nikki: Qualities you think Toronto Dancers possess?
Vanessa: Passion, hunger and gratitude. Like I said earlier, Toronto is a hub for the arts. Therefore you get a lot of new artists always coming to Toronto and it keeps the ones who have been here awhile, on their toes! In a city where there is always someone a step behind you wanting your place, the dancers that are working are full of passion for what they do, hunger for the jobs they want and gratitude for each piece that makes them one step closer to achieving their goals.
Nikki: Any advice for emerging dancers and choreographers working/training in Toronto?
Vanessa: My 3 keys to being a success in this industry are:
1- Network! If you want people to know your name then you better keep telling it to them! Dancers are always astounded when I have a business card. But why shouldn’t you have one? You are your own business. Getting a card out there is simple and effective! It can say “Performing Artist” and include any specialties you have. Or just simply your contact info and a photo. Vistaprint.ca is a great website for ordering cheap cards that you can design yourself!
2- Find your own work! Utilize the Facebook era we live in and get involved in groups, pages, discussions that may lead you to auditions and castings! Spend an hour a day searching for jobs and emailing potential clients/employers and I guarantee you will be working enough to pay your bills. The best part about being contracted is you are always free to keep searching for more work! Use social media and job sites to find opportunities for yourself and to get your name out there.
3- Drop the ego! No matter how high up your working or what gig you get you should remember that the dance scene is like a family. It needs love, support, encouragement and unity to work. No one likes working with someone who has an attitude or believes they are better than someone else. Always be polite and professional, learn from mistakes and be reliable. These are reasons why you will be hired next time without even auditioning. Don’t forget that word gets around either. Having an attitude with one choreographer may cost you your reputation with many others.
Now get out there and hustle!!