This week’s Dancer/Choreographer shout out goes to Janet L. Castillo. Janet is a powerhouse choreographer, dancer, TV personality, and mentor. Her vigorous training and work has taken her from Toronto to New York and from Los Angeles to London, England. She is known by high-profile Hollywood directors and choreographers as a “rare talent” who brings “brilliant artistry with an intelligent, creative, and sharp mind.” Passionate about making a difference through the performing arts, Janet’s radiating energy continues to inspire and touch audiences around the world.
Performing since she was five-years-old, Janet’s dance vocabulary spans across a range of styles from classical, street, and cultural forms. Always pushing boundaries and facing her fears, she made the jump to New York City after graduating from York University with a degree in Mass Communications and Sociology. Training at Broadway Dance Center under the best in the industry, she hasn’t looked back. Highlighted television and film appearances include being a resident dance judge on Much Music’s NML Best Dance Crew, Las Vegas Finalist on So You Think You Can Dance USA, the Oxygen reality series Making it Big, The Latin GRAMMYs, Jammx Kids TV Special, BPM TV’s Dance Moves, The Drop, The Toronto Show, Take the Lead (Antonio Banderas), and Honey (Jessica Alba). Janet has worked with superstars Jennifer Lopez, Christina Milian, Jojo, Queen Latifah, Hip Hop legend Kurtis Blow, American Idol finalist Jasmine Trias, and has worked with Canadian artists including Canadian Idol finalist Gary Beals, Kreesha Turner, JRDN, Jenna G. and Queen of Hearts. She has been featured in various projects for MTV, Macy’s, The Bay, MAC Cosmetics, Rocawear, Asia Entertainment and was the dance captain for the American tour of the urban musical You Don’t Know Me (In Association with Cedric the Entertainer, Music by R&B Group City High).
Along with her performance and choreography credits, Janet is the founder, and co-artistic director of Catalyst the Company alongside long-time dance partner Natasha Powell. They kicked off the company in October 2009 with Catalyst Bootcamp, a unique program geared towards assisting aspiring professional dancers to reach for their ultimate dreams. They extended into a performing company, exploring a combination of classical, contemporary and street dance forms to offer an eclectic taste of movement representing the diversity of Toronto. Janet has creatively developed and pitched the most entertaining shows for both corporate and charity events including Artbound Charity Party, Canadian Special Events Star Awards, Fashion Alternative Toronto (FAT) Show, Women in Dance, Talent Defined, Pink Bedroom Charity, International Dance Day, and Dancing with the Compass. In May 2012, Janet wrote, c0-produced, co-directed, and performed in the full-length Catalyst production “The 5th Element’, which raised $1,000 for Free the Children’s Artbound Initiative and later got restaged for the Fringe Festival in summer 2011. The production received rave reviews, was awarded the “Da Kink” Award by award-winning playwright and producer Trey Anthony, and was nominated for a Broadway World Toronto Award for Best Dance Production up against the prestigious 75-year-old National Ballet of Canada.
Driven to learn all aspects of the arts and entertainment industry, Janet has utilized her business savvy skills in marketing and production for the top live theatre companies including managing, casting, and choreographing a street dance tour for Dancap Productions and has helped build and execute marketing campaigns for Starvox Entertainment and Mirvish Productions.
An accomplished dance and entertainment writer, Janet’s work has also been published in Mateo magazine, Dance Quarterly, and YYZ Magazine where she has interviewed and written compelling stories on the industry’s leading performers including former Pussycat Doll Carmit Bachar, actor Tyler Blackburn, America’s Got Talent choreographer Chris Dupre, The Groovaloos andBroadway Jesus Christ Superstar choreographer Bradley Rapier. Small in size but big in dreams, Janet is on an endless mission to achieve the impossible and continues to inspire others to do the same. Living daily by her slogan “Anything is possible…if you just believe”, Janet L. Castillo is a true testament that anyone can achieve success through hard work, perseverance, faith, and an unwavering commitment to one’s true destiny.
Bio provided by Janet
You Tube. dancebreakdowntv
You Tube. catalystthecompany
Check out what Janet had to say in this week’s shout out…
Nikki: Do you remember the first time you started dancing?
Janet: At aged 5, I clearly remember walking to my first hula class not knowing where my mother was taking me. I cried hysterically because I didn’t want to participate, but once I started the class, the tears vanished and they never came back after that. As a shy child, I fell in love with dance because it allowed me to express myself without having to use any words. It all felt so natural. From there I moved on to Filipino folk dancing, ballet, jazz, acrobatics, latin, ballroom, hip hop and the vocabulary continued to expand….
Nikki: Do you remember the first song you choreographed to? (Or your earliest memory)
Janet: First song I choreographed to was Madonna’s True Blue in grade one. I got a few of my female classmates together and taught them the song and then we performed it during recess to a group of people. I had no idea what I was doing. I just liked the song, like to move, and liked my friends. Lol
Nikki: Your personal advice for dancers when it comes to free styling?
Janet: Show me YOU and please LISTEN to the music. You can have all the tricks in the world but if you don’t show me your story and connect with the music and your audience, I turn a blind eye and it will take a long time to get my attention back. Aside from learning choreography in classes, go out to the club and just jam to a wicked DJ or live band and let your body loose. Musicians breathe their life and soul into a song and as dancers, our goal is to bring that alive through our bodies. Tune up your instrument, experiment freely, and don’t take yourself too seriously!
Nikki: Getting in the zone to choreograph, what does it take for you?
Janet: Soul music. Plain and simple. If I hear music that has soul no matter what the style, it immediately takes me to another place and I get into an undeniable zone. I often surprise myself on what my body begins to do as my mind fizzles out. I also enjoy feeding off of other people’s energy so working with other choreographers and dancers always get the creative juices flowing.
Nikki: Who are some of your biggest influences in the Dance industry?
Janet: Tina Landon is a huge inspiration for me because when I was growing up; she was one of the leading female choreographers and was so sensual and powerful in her movement. To this day, her choreography is remembered because of her story-telling and signature style. My first street jazz teachers Jermaine Brown and Rhapsody at Broadway Dance Center opened my world of what “jazz” was. Wes Veldink for my first class in contemporary and Anthony Thomas for making my head spin in locking class. Rich & Tone for proving that soul can live in the commercial industry. As far as companies, I would say Beat Freaks, Complexions Contemporary Ballet and for those who have passed in the theatre world, I’m influenced most by Bob Fosse, Cyd Charisse, and Gene Kelly.
Nikki: Name a Toronto Choreographer you enjoy working with and why?
Janet: Natasha Powell – we create magic when we get together. We can be in completely different worlds but once we get into a creative space, our versatile vocabularies collide and we get lost in the process. We are connected on a deeper level and I believe it shows in our work.
Nikki: Name one of your favorite artists to work with and why? (It does not have to be a pop star any type of artist that a Dancer would work with i.e.; another Dancer, Choreographer, Musician etc.)
Janet: My favourite choreographers to work with have been my mentors Lisette Bustamate and Chonique Sneed. I assisted them while I lived in Los Angeles and it was like the dream team came together at the perfect time. We were swamped with work and we each had each other’s back whether creating in the studio, teaching the dancers, calling agents, booking space, casting auditions etc. I’ve recently been certified under their artist-coaching program called Creating Opportunities where I am now an Elite Team Coach and can help dancers build the life of their dreams. Yet another reason why I love working with them – they are female trendsetters, leaders, and forever evolving.
Nikki: Are you currently working on any projects?
Janet: I’ve just launched an online dance instructional series called Dance Breakdown where I break down the moves to some of today’s favourite artists. The channel will extend to feature exclusive interviews, events, news and dance stories to help bridge the gap between the emerging and professional worlds. I am creating and performing in a hype dance piece for Free the Children’s annual charity party ‘Artbound’ alongside choreographer Jojo Zolina. As a new Elite Team Coach for Creating Opportunities, myself and LA choreographer Gigi Torres will be teaching Toronto’s first crash course of the program (Registration information below) . I am also speaking and hosting interactive workshops for young women groups because I really believe in giving back knowledge, tips, and advice that extends even beyond the dance community.
Nikki: Qualities you believe Toronto Dancers possess?
Janet: Raw talent, passion, hunger, and diversity. Our city is one of the most diverse and it’s revealed in our dancers.
Nikki: Any advice for emerging dancers and choreographers working/training in Toronto?
Janet: Be a sponge to everything in the city because we are lucky to have so many amazing teachers here who are equipped with expertise and worldwide experience. Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone and take a ballet class if all you know is hip hop. Or experiment with some beginning improvisation classes if you’re a salsa dancer. The more you extend yourself and learn from as many teachers as possible, the closer you are to becoming a true artist. And a true artist is ever-lasting. Sometimes dancers can get too ‘cliquey’ and that immediately limits your possibilities and stunts your evolution.
Also, take time with your craft and make key connections. Success doesn’t come overnight so be patient with the process and be careful not to burn any bridges along the way. Become educated on how the business works and stay humble when you think you’ve “killed” a piece because believe me, the work is never done.
Oh…and fall in love with dance over and over again …and again…and again…
THANK YOU JANET FOR SHARING YOUR LOVE & PASSION WITH T.D.O.T. XO
THIS DANCE LIFE- THE 5TH ELEMENT….
DANCE BREAKDOWN WITH JANET…