This week’s Dancer/Choreographer shout out goes to Ashley Brodeur. Aspiring dancer and instructor Ashley grew up in St. Catharines, Ontario. Having been dancing since the age of 3 she has immersed herself deeply into the artistic and commercial world of dance. Competing heavily in her teens years, she has been given numerous high scoring awards as well as choreography recognition. A member of both Jazz and Tap Canadian National Dance teams she has been honoured with both a Gold (Tap) and Bronze (Jazz) medal for her talent. Proficient in ballet, contemporary, jazz, tap and hip hop styles of dance, Brodeur has since took her talent to another level. Trained as a scholarship recipient in Los Angeles (Millennium Dance Complex, The Edge), she then attended York University BFA Dance and found her place at George Brown in their Commercial Dance Program. Upon graduation Brodeur was approached by Shameka Blake and was a founding member of AIM Dance Company, whom she still works with today. Featured dancer in upcoming artist JMan’s debut video and later performed in various shows and festivals such as the Toronto Fringe Festival in 2010 and the Kuumba Festival to name a few. As a dancer in Toronto she has worked and trained with choreographers such as Hollywood Jade, Lenny DeLa Pena, Shameka Blake, Esie Mesnah and Stephen Findlay. Brodeur then relocated to Calgary, Alberta and completed two years of training with professional company, Decidedly Jazz Danceworks in their professional training program. This rooted jazz company expanded her dance vocabulary into African, Afrocuban and Swing styles. She was also the Hip Hop Instructor for the School of Decidedly Jazz and taught Contemporary, Jazz and Hip Hop at various studios, after school and at risk youth programs and also regularly for Aventa Addiction Treatment for Women. In 2011 she was the head adjudicator for Gotta Dance? in Cold Lake, AB and had her first piece showcased in the Ignite! Festival for Emerging Artists. As a former member of ILLFX Entertainment, led by Edgar Gilbert Reyes of So You Think You Can Dance Canada, she performed all over Calgary. A partnership was established between the crew and a band, The Groove Academy. Performing at a variety of holiday parties, The SAM Awards and The Calgary Stampede the collaboration experienced great support. Working with Espy, a giant flashmob was conceptualized and was taught in schools, dance studios and events all over the city. The final event was a huge success being covered by CTV Calgary. Happy to be back in Toronto and upon return from Dubai with CMart Worldwide Producers, Brodeur has continued training and performing with AIM Dance Company and as a new member of BOSS. Dancing along side some amazing talent, she has since performed with PSY at the 2013 MMVA’s, Choreographers Ball in works from Esie Mensah and Leah Totten, and also was a featured dancer in Bravo! Fact Short Film, “A Song for Torah Jane.” She is also currently sharing her love of dance by teaching with the ACE After School Program, Dance Kraze Productions, Muskoka Dance Connection, Dance FX in St. Catharines and excited to be at a few more studios in the fall. Working as an Entertainment Representative, Instructor and Choreographer for DivaGirl Entertainment created by Laura Furtado she is also advancing her business skills and writing regularly for Eligible Magazine in the Diva Dish and DivaGirl Entertainment. With great plans and aspirations for the future, a strong belief in community and a love for diversity in the arts, Brodeur is truly on the rise. I Am a Dancer by Ashley Brodeur
Bio provided by Ashley
Nikki: Do you remember the first time you started dancing?
Ashley: Quite vaguely but I remember there was a Mickey Mouse body suit involved. My mom was my dance teacher growing up. She opened her studio before I was born and taught all through her pregnancy. I guess I was dancing before I even knew it.
Nikki: Do you remember the first song you choreographed to? (Or your earliest memory)
Ashley: Aside from making up dances with my girlfriends to the Spice Girls on the bleachers at school, I choreographed my first solo at 14. It was to “Bye Bye Blackbird” by Liza Minnelli. There were more dances I made up before then but this was definitely the start of something different. Although I still didn’t really know what I was doing haha. I’ve always loved jazz and musical theatre so this is something that I’m definitely still pretty proud of.
Nikki: Your personal advice for dancers when it comes to free styling?
Ashley: Breathe and listen…As hard as that may be. What I find really helps me is focusing on what I’m good at. Free styling is a moment to express yourself and shine, especially in an audition setting. The more confident you are, the more that translates. Risks are great and should be taken but when you’re trying to land a gig, be strong, confident and as secure as possible in your movement. I think that’s when you might surprise yourself the most.
Nikki: Getting in the zone to choreograph, what does it take for you?
Ashley: Honestly, it comes at the spur of the moment. The more I sit and try to force it out, it doesn’t happen. It’s a fine line between thinking too hard and not thinking at all. I always tell my students the first step is the hardest. Sometimes it’s hard to follow your own advice!
Nikki: Who are some of your biggest influences in the Dance industry?
Ashley: Sean Cheeseman. He came from Decidedly Jazz Danceworks which I had an opportunity to train with for a few years. His movement is rich in all ways- technique, authentic and funky. It’s pretty cool training somewhere he helped create.
Nikki: Name a Toronto Choreographer you enjoy working with and why?
Ashley: Hmm…I’m going to have to say Shameka Blake. I’ve been working with her the longest and she’s really been a mentor to me. Her choreography is challenging and it’s a great feeling when you catch it. I’ve left and come back a few times so it’s really great to know I have AIM.
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.)
Ashley: I had the pleasure of working with a band called The Groove Academy in Calgary, AB. It was one of the most unique experiences I’ve had. Working directly with a band in the rehearsal process is such an interesting dynamic and on stage….there’s nothing like dancing with a live band!
Nikki: Qualities you believe Toronto Dancers possess?
Ashley: I think the most unique thing about Toronto is our style of Hip Hop. We’ve definitely got some different ways of moving. Within that style we have lots of varieties of teachers and choreographers to work with. Not to mention some very knowledgable dancers in terms of foundation.
Nikki: Any advice for emerging dancers and choreographers working/training in Toronto?
Ashley: Train in as many styles as possible. You need to have your niche but dancers are getting more and more versatile everyday…literally. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket so to speak. It’s hard to make a living just off of dancing so expand yourself creatively and stylistically as much as you can. Don’t be afraid to travel and experience new places. Dance is beautiful and it’s everywhere. Also, get yourself acquainted with the entire scene and I can’t stress this enough…Know your history of Toronto! As a dancer it’s very important to know where you’re headed and where it’s all come from. Do your digging, research and ask questions. There’s some serious talent here so it can only benefit you to know your surroundings because you never know who that unfamiliar face may be. Don’t forget your professionalism at the door either 🙂
Nikki: Any upcoming projects, shows or classes you would like to share with T.D.O.T.?
Ashley: I’m performing with Esie Mensah at The Love Letters STRICT Tease Fundraiser and with Allison Bradley at Smile 4 The Cause. I’m doing some teaching in my hometown of St. Catharines and Bracebridge over the summer and it looks like I’ll be headed to Newfoundland in November.
THANK YOU ASHLEY FOR SHARING YOUR LOVE & PASSION WITH T.D.O.T. XO