Archive | December, 2011

VALERIE CALAM

27 Dec

This weeks Dancer/Choreographer shout out goes to Valerie Calam. Originally from Sault Ste. Marie. Ontario, Valerie began dancing competitively at age 7, training in tap, jazz, and ballet at the Sherry Walsh Academy of Dance Arts.  She moved to Toronto at age 18 to attend the School of Toronto Dance Theatre’s Professional Training Program where she was first introduced to modern dance, falling in love with the Graham Technique.   After graduation, she had the privilege of working with Dance Theatre David Earle and Danny Grossman Dance Company.  Under the Artistic Direction of Christopher House, Valerie was a member of Toronto Dance Theatre from 1999-2009 where she had the opportunity to work with Peter Chin, Sasha Ivonochko, Sharon Moore, and Stephanie Skura.  Currently, Valerie is dancing with Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie and ProArteDanza where she recently performed works by James Kudelka and Guillaume Cote.   
6Valerie has been presenting choreography in Toronto since 1997 and uses the psudoneym name Vice Versa for her work in sound design and dance video.   She has created works for Toronto Dance Theatre, Alias Dance Project, Ryerson Dances, The School of Toronto Dance Theatre, as well as many of her own choreographies.  Valerie recently launched Company ViceVersa, a Toronto based contemporary dance organization, where she is the Artistic Director.  Valerie and Company VV will be   presenting their first full-evening work in January 2012 at The Citadel (309 Parliament, Toronto) through the assistance of Ontario Arts Council, Toronto Arts Council, and the CreatiVenture Collective. Valerie has been nominated for four Mavor Moore Dora Award including Outstanding New Choreography in 2007.  She is the 2011 winner of the KM Hunter Award for Dance chosen by juries of experienced artists from a selection of grant applications recommended by Ontario Arts Council juries.  She is the drummer in the ‘new age punk’ band “The Tight Ship”  

Bio Provided by Valerie

Find out what Valerie had to say in this weeks shout out….

Nikki:Do you remember the first time you started dancing?
 
Valerie: I was 6. My mom was watching and it was a sunny day.  I remember skipping across the floor in a line.    I’m now 36 and still love to skip across the floor in a line.
 
Nikki: Do you remember the first song you choreographed to? (Or your earliest memory)
 
Valerie: Hmm.  I believe it was a co-choreography with my two Sault Ste Marie friends (Chavelah and Tawnya) during the Royal Winnipeg Ballet Summer Program in 1988.  We had just come from a big American competition with our dance studio.  I was really into tap and jazz.  We pulled off a lip-synced version of Whitney Houston’s “I wanna dance with somebody”. We were a hit, even though the number before us used the same music.
 
Nikki: Your personal advice for dancers when it comes to free styling?
 
Valerie: Listen to the music.  Be the music.  Don’t rush. Don’t plan ahead.  Stay cool. 
 
Nikki: Getting in the zone to choreograph, what does it take for you? 
 
Valerie: I’ve been pretty lucky with that.  I always feel pretty much ‘in the zone’.  I work in other peoples’ creative processes frequently so when it’s time for my own I’m completely ready.  Having opportunities to choreograph is a real gift.
 
Nikki: Who are some of your biggest influences in the Dance industry? 
 
Valerie: Bruce Ykanji, Salah, Niels “Storm” Robitzky, Jan Fabre, Wim Vandekeybus, Meg Stuart.  Locally, I’m inspired and influenced by Apolonia & Ofilio of Gadfly Dance Company and dancer/teacher/presenter Mariano Abarca. 
 
Nikki: Name a Toronto Choreographer you enjoy working with and why? 
 
Valerie: Wow… that’s a tough one.   Well, I spent 9 years working with Christopher House (Artistic Director of Toronto Dance Theatre).  He taught me many things and I enjoyed my time there very much. 
I recently worked with Guillaume Cote (principal at National Ballet of Canada) and I found his process very interesting and challenging.  He’s a nice ballet guy who likes heavy metal music.
I love working with James Kudelka.  He is genius.  I am constantly surprised.
I also had a chance to work with D.A. Hoskins.  That experience was very consuming in a good way.  I really felt like I was a part of something.   
 
Nikki: Name one of your favorite artists to work with and why? 
 
Valerie: My favorite artist to work with is musician/composer Paul Shepherd.  I have many runner-ups like Luke Garwood, Brendan Jensen, Kristy Kennedy, and Tina Fushell.  They are all very gifted and curious.  We work together in a real back-and-forth collaborative way.  I propose an idea, we work on it, we discuss it, and out of that, they propose a new idea that is an evolved version of the original idea.  It seems to continue like that.
 
Nikki: Are you currently working on any projects?
 
Valerie: I am currently working on my first full-evening piece entitled “Children of the Triangle” that will debut Company Vice Versa, a new local contemporary dance company where I am the Artistic Director.  Yay!  The piece will be presented at The Citadel, the newly renovated home of Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie.  January 11th-15th 2012.  Check out our Facebook page or website (www.companyviceversa.com).
 
Nikki: Qualities you think Toronto Dancers possess?
 
Valerie: Hard working.  Curious.  Beautiful. 
 
Nikki: Any advice for emerging dancers and choreographers working/training in Toronto?
 
Valerie: Do what inspires you.  Find comfort in the community.  Ask for help.  Seek out a mentor.  
 
THANK YOU VALERIE FOR SHARING YOUR LOVE AND PASSION WITH T.D.O.T. XO
 
WATCH THE TRAILER FOR COMPANY VICE VERSA’S UPCOMING PERFORMANCE
 
 

Children of the ▼ from valerie calam on Vimeo.

KJ MCKNIGHT

20 Dec

This weeks Dancer/Choreographer shout out goes to KJ McKnight. KJ McKnight is a dancer who started his entry into dance through hip hop at the age of sixteen. Within the first few years of his training he was shared a great deal of wisdom which guided McKnight to venture out and discover different styles outside of urban dance. This is when he decided to train in classical dance and also study many styles of African dance and the person who took him on this journey was Saba Alemayehu of Jaivah. Since then he has also been a member of Arabesque Academy and Divine Heritage Artistry. McKnight’s credits include music artists Devine Brown, Eva Avila, Neverending White Lights and Alex Cuba. The Incredible Hulk (2008), Much Music, New.Music.Live, MTV (U.S) and CBC series Being Erica are also a couple film and television credits. McKnight contributed choreography to pieces and performances while working with Jaivah and DHA. As a choreographer McKnight has presented work at the 2009 Toronto Choreographers’ Ball, The City of Toronto’s City on the Move project, 2009 and 2010 Pride Celebration, City Dance Corps’ Talent Defined 2010 and 2011, Performers Unite for Japan and City Dance Corps’ “A City Tale”.

Bio Provided by KJ

 

Find out what KJ had to say in this weeks shout out…

 

 

Nikki: Do you remember the first time you started dancing?

KJ: The First time I started dancing in any organised fashion I guess would be in elementary school. I joined the line dancing club; best times ever line dancing to songs from the “Much Dance Mix” albums.

 

Nikki: Do you remember the first song you choreographed to? (Or your earliest memory)

KJ: I very much believe it was “Get your shit together” by T.I. feat Lil Kim.

 

Nikki: Your personal advice for dancers when it comes to free styling?

KJ: It’s just like any technique; it’s a matter of practicing and gaining experience. It’s not just dancing to the beat:  it’s connecting with the music, being comfortable, looking comfortable, understanding or perceiving where the music is going especially if you haven’t heard the song before.  Objective: look effortless. So practice, train, session and get in those cyphers.

 

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

KJ: Everything off (Phone, Facebook) and music that moves me and makes me feel.  Can’t think about two things at once and if someone says something to me that requires thought I tend to hang onto it good or bad. I need a clear head to go with my motivation.

 

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

KJ: Luther Brown is a big influence because he showed me with his great teaching method how well I can dance. I don’t know what it is but I can be on my worst day but when Luther teaches everything makes sense and works because he doesn’t settle for less and motivates until destination is current.

Kevin Ormbsy is another one, he teaches structure, discipline and such great artistic form in the realm or Contemporary, African Dance, Afro-contemporary and Ballet. He is an amazing teacher, dancer and choreographer and from the moment I met and worked with him in 2009 I was driven by his wisdom.

 

Nikki: Name a Toronto Choreographer you enjoy working with and why? 

KJ: Pastel Supernova I must say for sure.  She is like a Classic Hollywood Movie and when it comes to the classics I love all that jazz…and style. Supernova is very much about character. I wish life was like “West Side Story” where something as simple as claiming your turf is depicted through dance and so does she.

 

Nikki: Name one of your favorite artists to work with and why? 

KJ: I would have to say Divine Brown. She is such an animated and dynamic performer and individual. It was soo much fun working with her.

 

Nikki: Are you currently working on any projects? 

KJ: I am currently working on “Love Letters” with Pastel Supernova and an awesome cast. Pastel is the Artistic Director/Choreographer/Dancer, I’m Choreographer/Dancer and Vanessa Young is Producer. Love Letters will be presented early February 2012 and it proves to be hot, fun and dynamic show…to say the least.

Love Letters is a cabaret show exploring decadence, romance & seduction through choreography. Featuring guest performers and multimedia this show will share a modern take on a vintage definition of class.

I also run Dance Workshops T.O. I first started it as a Facebook group where dancers can check out and post whatever workshops they have coming up it Toronto and the surrounding areas despite what style, studio or affiliation. Just another way for dancers in Toronto to stay connected and in the know.

I have now switched the group to a fan page in which you “like” in order to get the feeds and no annoying notifications. Starting January DW T.O. will be coordinating a dance workshops tour for every season. The first Seasonal DW T.O. tour will be in January and it will be under the theme of Outside the Box (Innovative choreographers, Innovative styles). A couple Choreographers featured are Kelly Gammie (Invictus Dance Project) and Kevin Ormsby ( Kashedance). This series will hit the West End Toronto, Downtown and even Scarborough. More details will be released shortly.

 

Nikki: Qualities you think Toronto Dancers possess?

KJ: Diversity and culture, Toronto is big on Hip Hop and Dancehall in the urban dance scene. I’ve known all kinds of dancers no matter where they are from in the urban scene to embrace Dancehall and execute it well because frankly it’s not hard to find in T.O. It’s even in hour Hip Hop a lot of the time. House as well is huge with its many different styles within itself.

 

Nikki: Any advice for emerging dancers and choreographers working/training in Toronto? 

KJ: Train, train, train, do not settle, and stay humble and hungry. Also go out and make things happen, don’t wait for what you want to do or what you want to be.

 

THANK YOU KJ FOR SHARING YOUR LOVE AND PASSION WITH T.D.O.T. XO

LEON BLACKWOOD

13 Dec
This week’s Dancer/Choreographer shout out goes to my good friend Leon Blackwood.  Leon Blackwood is no stranger to Music and Movement and began to explore the possibilities of a Dance Life around the age of 15. Performing at church events and with school Dance crews, he began to build his choreography reputation starting the group Nu Limit in 2003. His strong performance skills and signature cool factor have landed him Dance roles in movies like “Honey” “Frenemies”, “Alvin and The Chipmunks 3” (Playing Alvin) and assistant choreographer and Dancer on “Cobu 3D.” Training in classes and workshops around the GTA and the U.S he joined the cast of 1 of the most noted Hip Hop conventions “The Monsters of Hip Hop” In 2009. Through his hard work and dedication he has been able to Dance with the likes of Lady Gaga, Jully Black and Kesha to name a few. Leon has been able to provide choreography for major events, networks and charities such as the YMCA, ICRF, Much Music, Toronto District School Board, SYTYCDC and more.  His choreography can be seen on the Danny Fernandes “Rookie of The Year” European Tour, Massari’s “In Love Again” Promo Tour and most recently Blake McGrath’s “Stage Fright” Tour. He’s assisted Top Choreographers Luther Brown and Nappy Tabs on many projects from Artist video’s to major network programs like the Juno Awards and So You Think You Can Dance (American) He is currently assisting Do Dat Alumni and Choreographer Mark Samuels with a few upcoming artists. Continuing to build his craft he travels to L.A a few times a year to train with some of the industry’s leading Choreographers and Dancers.  Leon holds a regular drop in class at OIP Dance Centre (Tues 830-10pm and Fri 7-830pm) and teaches at various competitive and non competitive studios in the GTA. He has become one of the most sought after Commercial Dancers and Choreographers in Toronto. Leon continues to hold the title of Nu Limit’s head choreographer sharing his passion for Dance and Movement around the world.
 
Bio provided by Nikki
 
 
Find out what Leon had to say in this weeks shout out…
 
 
 
Nikki: Do you remember the first time you started dancing?
 
Leon: I think the first time I started dancing was when I was like 9 or 10yrs old… But that was more me just going full out and dancing around the place to music that would play on the radio lol. I started to take dance more seriously when I was about 15yrs old. Dancing in school dance crews and church events!
 
 
Nikki: Do you remember the first song you choreographed to? (Or your earliest memory)
 
Leon: I laugh every time I think back to the first routine I’ve ever done. I think I was 15 and I made a routine to Britney’s “Baby One More Time” and it was for a parent’s night at this camp I was attending, I choreographed the routine for my peers and myself. I felt so hyped about it, but the kid’s dem dropped out last min and I ended up doing a solo performance… It was Horrible (smh) lol.
 
 
Nikki: Your personal advice for dancers when it comes to free styling?
 
Leon: To be honest I am not good at free styling. I find that I get caught up in my head some times and try to dance instead of just dancing. What I’m trying to train myself to do now is, to put my Ipad on shuffle and move to whatever song comes on. That way I can be more comfortable in my own skin and discover all the ways in which I can manipulate my body to move.
 
 
Nikki: Getting in the zone to choreograph, what does it take for you?
 
Leon: For me it really doesn’t take much. Just my Beats by Dre headphones, a dope track and I zone out…. Once I hear that track I start to see the choreo in my head and I go with it!
 
 
Nikki: Who are some of your biggest influences in the Dance industry?
 
Leon: Dang I got so many inspirations its crazy… But to list the most important ones people like Johnny Erasme, Candace Brown, Elysandra Quinones, Christian Owens, Laura Edwards, Madison Benson, Sohey Sugihara, Lee Daniels…. these people inspire my whole dance life. Being able to work and dance with them, I feel has made me and always pushes me to be a better dancer and performer.
 
 
Nikki:  Name a Toronto Choreographer you enjoy working with and why?
 
Leon: Without a doubt in my mind Luther Brown. I have learned so much about myself, how to work hard, perform and feel the movement that you’re doing all from him! I look up to him in so many ways. He always pushes his dancers to their limits and brings the best out of them. I feel he is one of the best and most respected choreographers to come out of Toronto and of our time.
 
 
Nikki: Name one of your favorite artists to work with and why?
 
Leon: I would have to say dancing for Lady Gaga at the 2009 MMVA’s in Toronto. She was my first major artist gig! That was one of the hardest auditions I’ve ever had to go thru! The rehearsals were hard and stressful at times but it was all worth it! Being able to dance in that show and for her was definitely a blessing and a dream come true!
 
 
Nikki: Are you currently working on any projects?
 
Leon: I’m currently working on a few projects. I’m working alongside Choreographer/ Dancer Mark Samuels with an upcoming artist named Guinevere. She’s preparing for a US Tour in the New Year. Also in rehearsals preparing for a few shows with artist Frank Anthony, which is being choreographed by Rodrigo Basurto Garcia. December 11th at The MOD Club, I will be doing a piece at Choreographer’s Ball. I’m a little nervous about it because this one is a different style than people are used to seeing from me. But I’m excited none the less… And I will also be dancing in Shavar Blackwood’s piece. (No relation lol)
 
Nikki: Qualities you think Toronto Dancers possess?
 
Leon: I feel that Toronto dancers possess a lot of heart, passion and determination. And when that’s focused in the right place anything is achievable. I feel this newer generation of dancers to come out of Toronto definitely possess these qualities and it’s been very exciting for me as a choreographer to see that!
 
Nikki:  Any advice for emerging dancers and choreographers working/training in Toronto?
 
Leon: My advice to Dancers: KEEP TRAINING! GET IN CLASS!!! Absorb all that you see and hear in class, from Choreographers, Teachers and other dancers… Push yourself to limits you never thought possible. Put 100% into everything that you do and always be FULL OUT!
Advice for Choreographers… Never stop learning. Use everything around you as inspiration. Find yourself a team of dancers that believe and trust your vision and never second guess yourself!We as Dancers and Choreographers need to remember that we do this for the love of it… Not the fame and fortune that are merely a bonus and blessing from God! Push and persevere thru any and all obstacles, and remember that you DON’T NEED Validation from anyone! So never doubt or second guess your talent. No one is alike, we all think and move differently…. This is what makes each and every one of us special in our own way! Be confident not cocky, be humble but not passive, know your worth and value. Always trust that God knows what is meant for you and what isn’t. And most importantly never lose sight of your Dreams!
 
 
THANK YOU LEON FOR SHARING YOUR LOVE AND PASSION WITH T.D.O.T. XOXOCHECK OUT SOME FOOTAGE OF LEON’S CLASSES….

 
 
 
 
 

LAURA FURTADO

6 Dec
This weeks Dancer/Choreographer shout out goes out goes to Laura Furtado. Laura Furtado, a successful international Dancer, Instructor, Choreographer and Presenter, is the Founder and Owner of DivaGirl.
DivaGirl consists of 4 divisions: DivaGirl Fitness (dance/fitness company across Canada, Brazil & Spain), DivaGirl Entertainment (professional dance company), DivaGirl Beauty (spa/beauty division) and DivaGirl-Preneur (hosting women entrepreneur seminars and networking events).  With over 25 years of experience in the dance and fitness realms, she has made a presence across North America and Europe, including Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Ukraine and Portugal.
She is a Visionary who has transformed the concept of a diva, with the creation of the DivaGirl community. Throughout her career, Laura has danced on stages across the world, has taught in numerous cities, certified hundreds of female Instructors and instructed thousands of women.
Laura has been titled Canada’s Top Young Entrepreneur of 2010, one of Canada’s Top 25 Young Entrepreneurs of 2009, Nominee for the Arts Entrepreneur of the Year, Nominee for the Emerging Performing Artist of the Year, Titika Advocate, Lululemon Ambassador and Diva-Preneur. She is also the Co-Founder and Co-Producer of Women In Dance, a creative showcase featuring the top female Dancers and Choreographer in Toronto, ON.  She has also been recently featured in the first edition of the TorontoCrave book, featuring the sassiest women entrepreneurs in the city.
The success of her unique dance styles and repertories, have featured her in numerous media outlets such as the Toronto Star, Global Television, CBC, Cosmo TV, Much Music, Rogers Television, City TV, The Slice Network, OMNI Television, Toronto Life, The National Post, The Mississauga News, SNAP Newspaper, Sheridan Sun, CHUM FM, Chin Radio, That Channel Radio & The Best Darn Talk Show.
She has also been featured in various online media outlets including: Sweetspot, Notable TV, Toronto.com, FAJO Magazine, CRAVE Toronto, Hip & Urban Girl, Stiletto Twins, HeyDoYou, Happy Girls, I’m Charming You and The City is Mine Blog.
Bio Provided by Laura
Find out what Laura had to say in this weeks shout out… 

Nikki:Do you remember the first time you started dancing?

Laura:I started dancing at the age of 6.  My mother enrolled me baby ballet at Heather Menzie’s School of Dance.  All I remember is that I LOVED it… and was a disco duck for the show 🙂

 

Nikki: Do you remember the first song you choreographed to? (Or your earliest memory) 

Laura: This is a hard one… as there were many!  But the one closest to my memory was “Cold Hearted Snake” by Paula Abdul.  I was jamming in my basement with my little sister… nothing beats some great 80’s tunes.

 

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

Laura: To get into the zone, I need to focus on listening to my body… and what feels right.  This requires me trying to block out the outside world and distractions, which for me, can be challenging at times.  I need to feel well rested, inspired and creative.  Starting off to listen to music that I adore, is a great way to get my creative juices flowing.

 

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

Laura: I gravitate towards female Dancers and Choreographers, as that is part of what my business represents.  I love the style of Kay-Ann Ward, a friend of mine, who’s work is not only sexy, but fierce and raw.  Lindsay Ritter is also an amazing Choreographer who has effectively tapped into Commercial Jazz, making it very marketable in the industry.  Growing up, I also loved the sexy style of Sophie Luxton.  Most of my sexy dance influence has came from her, so I thank her for inspiring me to create a community like DivaGirl.

 

Nikki: Name a Toronto Choreographer you enjoy working with and why?

Laura: I enjoying working with Carla Catherwood- my Partner with the Chic-A-Boom Room.  Carla is not only passionate and super creative, yet she is also hard-working and hustler… just like me!  I enjoying being surrounded by people who have positive energy, also thinking of what more can be done, working hard and getting things done.  Execution is key to success- and Carla is someone who understands this.

 

Nikki: Name one of your favorite artists to work with and why?

Laura: I really enjoy Bollywood dance, which is a style that I picked up about 6 years, once I started dancing internationally.  Thus, my favorite artist is Apache Indian, though not mainstream, a great success for the “desi” music scene.

 

Nikki: Are you currently working on any projects?

Laura: I am working on various DivaGirl Entertainment projects in which are corporate event bookings across the GTA.  The main project that I am working on is the Chic-A-Boom Room, created by Carla Catherwood, in which I am the Marketing Director of the show.  We are working together to create bigger and better shows in 2012, a stage performance in September and taking the show to Vancouver, to build a second home for the Chic-A-Boom.

 

Nikki: Qualities you think Toronto Dancers possess?

Laura: Four top qualities that any amazing Dancer should embody include: dedication, uniqueness, passion and hard work.

 

Nikki: Any advice for emerging dancers and choreographers working/training in Toronto?

Laura: Dance, dance and then dance even more.  The best way to get better at your art, is to do it.  Take the opportunity to go to different classes and workshops and be open to learn from others.  Networking with other dancers as that is the way to get your name out.  ALWAYS be kind to others and avoid the drama.  Good things happen when you are good to others.

 

THANK YOU LAURA FOR SHARING YOUR LOVE AND PASSION WITH T.D.O.T. XO
CHECK OUT THE DIVA GIRL PROMO VIDEO…