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