This week’s Dancer/Choreographer shout out goes to Tina Nicolaidis. Tina is one of Toronto’s most popular dance experts with a specialty in Ballet/Jazz & Latin dance. Tina is the co-founder and Artistic Director of City Dance Corps, one of Toronto’s leading dance schools that just celebrated its tenth year of business. She has been featured in numerous television shows and magazines including, Much Music, Fashion Magazine, Maclean’s, National Post, CBC’s “Living in Toronto”, Rogers “Toronto Living”, Elle Magazine, and CH TV to name a few. She has been a dance judge for international level Latin dance competitions and American reality TV shows such as Instant Beauty Pageant. As a dance advocate, she produces and sponsors an annual charity showcase, “Talent Defined” which features Toronto’s up and coming dance companies and choreographers. Tina also gained recognition for training lead actor Jake Simons for his role as the original “Johnny Castle” in North America’s fastest selling premier stage production of Dirty Dancing. As a choreographer, her most recent accomplishments include choreographing Nelly Furtado’s ‘Mi Plan’ concert tour for 2011. Currently she is a board member for DanceOntario and contributes to local columns such as Want To Dance website sponsored by the National Ballet of Canada as a Salsa dance expert where she brings some thought provoking and educational topics on dance to the forefront.
Bio provided by Tina
Check out what Tina had to say in this week’s shout out….
Nikki: Do you remember the first time you started dancing?
Tina: My mom signed me up for a ballet class when I was three years old. My older sister, Estelle, was already signed up and I wanted to be part of that too. So, although I was too young to remember my first class, I do remember being excited to put my hair in a bun and put on my pink tutu skirt. I must have loved it because I stuck with the same ballet teacher till I was 19 years old!
Nikki: Do you remember the first song you choreographed to? (Or your earliest memory)
Tina: I was about 16 years old and I had developed the habit of altering my ballet teacher’s choreography. My teacher was completely inspiring about it, because instead of getting upset, she asked me if I just wanted to try to choreograph a dance on my own with my class. I was ecstatic and nervous. I choreographed a Tango Ballet to a track from Evita. This was when Latin dancing and music started to become a huge influence on my training. Now I use my classical dance training and fuse it with Latin dance styles. I love the energy, passion and dramatic feel that this creates.
Nikki: Your personal advice for dancers when it comes to free styling?
Tina: I’m a Latin dancer, and aside from choreographed performances, the dance is 100% freestyle. For me, it all starts with the music. I’m always teaching musicality in my salsa classes because I truly believe that this is what should drive your creativity. My advice would be to let your ears do some work before your feet do, and allow the music to guide you. This also takes practice! So lock yourself in a quiet room and let loose to your favourite song. When you stop worrying about what you look like, and let the music move you, you’ll discover your own style, and some unique moves in the process.
Nikki: Getting in the zone to choreograph, what does it take for you?
Tina: Being in the zone is one of the hardest things for me to do, but also one of the best feelings I can achieve. I can describe it as this mental place where thoughts and images are whirling around in your head, and you fight hard to make sense of them, and when you finally do, you feel inspired and content that’s it’s come to fruition. It’s a major stress reliever too. When you run a business and wear many hats, it’s difficult to set aside the time to not be the manager, the teacher, the administrator, the scheduler, the handy man, the IT girl etc, and just be a choreographer. So many times I’ll say, “pretend I’m not here” to my partners and staff in the studio, then I’ll be able to zone everyone out and focus on creating. I feel movement fuels movement, so keeping the energy moving in the studio between myself, the dancers and the music, is key to a successful session.
Nikki: Who are some of your biggest influences in Dance?
Tina: My biggest influences are the dancers of the 40s and 50s, like Cyd Charisse and Gene Kelly. Salsa is a dance form influenced by many other genres, and the going back to where it started gives me so much inspiration. I just love the grand sets, the technical dancing and the ability for these dancers to show perfection in one take.
Nikki: Name a Toronto Choreographer you enjoy working with and why?
Tina: My ultimate favourite Toronto choreographers to work with are Siona Jackson, Ofilio and Apolonia of Gadfly. With Siona, I can tap into my classical training and develop beautiful lines and edgy movements that compliment my Latin training. Siona has great energy and keeps ideas moving without any blocks. Her work is beautiful and aggressive at the same time. With Ofilio and Apolonia, they have such a gift for musicality, and working with them allows me to intensify the street side of Latin dancing and bring a whole new twist to an otherwise traditional style. All three choreographers work outside of the box, and it’s thanks to them that City Dance Corps has produced some of its best shows.
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.)
Tina: One of my favourite musical artists that I worked with was Nelly Furtado. She feels first and thinks later, which is an attribute that every great artist should have. Working with her on her South American tour was always a process of discovery and forced me to be as creative as I can be.
Nikki: What’s it like running a Dance Studio in Toronto
Tina: Running a dance studio is thrilling, exciting, challenging, stressful, inspiring and rewarding all at once. City Dance Corps has over 40 members on staff including instructors, managers and receptionists. What keeps it moving like a well oiled machine are my partners Estelle and Jerome, our Youth Program Coordinator Melissa Nascimento-So, Elizabeth our studio manager and everyone on staff that makes it feel like a family. Everyone is responsible for a sector of the business including our Studio Rentals, Corporate Accounts, Entertainment, Pre Professional Training Program, Youth Program, Latin Dance Companies, Adult Dance Program and our newest division, Dancewear and Footwear. We work hard to create a welcoming, friendly and non competitive environment for all students walking in. So from the smallest dancer at 1 and a half years old, to the oldest dancer at 75 years old, we guarantee there will be a class that you love.
Nikki: Are you currently working on any projects?
Tina: There are always projects and events on the go that keeps our studio buzzing with energy and activity. City Dance Corps is hosting its 5th faculty showcase, The Inferno on November 10, 2012. It will be at the Al Green Theatre and there are two shows. Tickets are on sale here. We are also working on a new Latin number that will be showcased at Harbourfront Centre’s ‘Dance Weekend’ for January 2013. We also have our 10th annual Holiday Party coming on December 15, 2012. And if that doesn’t make us busy enough, we are just launching a new shoe company called Stella Valentina shoes, that will be all about Latin Ballroom shoes with style, flair and comfort. Check www.stellavalentina.com for updates coming soon.
Nikki: Qualities you believe Toronto Dancers possess?
Tina: I believe Toronto dancers possess professionalism and no fear when it comes to trying new things, like concepts and styles, then bringing it to the stage.
Nikki: Any advice for emerging dancers and choreographers working/training in Toronto?
Tina: Keep creating and keep pushing forward. Jobs just don’t fall into your lap, and most times you are responsible for creating your own success. So work hard, cherish your reputation, and never burn bridges because dance is a small world after all.
THANK YOU TINA FOR SHARING YOUR LOVE & PASSION WITH T.D.O.T. XO
CHECK OUT TINA’S REEL AND SOME WORK BY CDC…