Monday, June 18, 2012



Monday, June 11, 2012


This week’s Dancer/Choreographer shout out goes to Christina De La Cruz. Christina has been dancing for as long as she can remember. Starting with traditional Hawaiian Hula dancing at the tender age of 3, most of her childhood was spent performing at community events and charity shows. She studied tap for 6 years at the Canadian Children’s Dance Theatre, eventually earning a scholarship in her final years. Her first introduction to Hip Hop dance was at the Cabbagetown Youth Centre, where she joined an elite crew of dancers from the St. Jamestown and Regent Park Area who entered many competitions in the GTA as well as traveling to Boston, Albany, Orlando and Rochester to compete against North America’s top teams. Graduating high school with cheerleading, regional hip hop titles and jazz experience under her belt, she joined the OIP Dance Company where she grew immensely. This allowed her to work with choreographers like Danny Davalos and Heather Leslie (artistic directors of OIP DC 2010), Rob Rich, Tre Armstrong, Mark Samuels, Jungle, Tuch, Leon Blackwood, Lenny de la Pena, Shabba-Doo, Romeo Casellas, Shameka Blake, and Scott Fordham. Since then, she has had the privilege to work with artists like Ludacris, Anjulie, Trish, Fito Blanco, Kitana, and Ray Robinson; recently performing on stages all over the GTA, Ottawa, New York City, Los Angeles and Cancun. Today, she enjoys working with well-known choreographers and talented dancers young and old. She considers a strong work ethic and a humble mentality two of dancer’s greatest tools for success in this industry.

Bio provided by Christina
Follow Christina on Twitter @Dela_Christina
Find out what Christina had to say in this week's shout out...

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

Christina: I don't remember exactly when, but I started by performing Hawaiian Hula in the Filipino "debut" circuit as early as three. My mom had this whole costume that she made by hand, grass skirt, little coconut bra... etc. My signature routine was "pearly shells". I still know the song by heart!

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

Christina: I remember learning a little of choreography from the Are You That Somebody video by Aaliyah (choreographed by Fatima Robinson) and when it got too hard to pick up, I would make up the little breaks between what I did know. Apparently I was a little remixer in training! But seriously, that was such an amazing video at the time, and showed edginess that other 90s artists weren't really daring enough to try. The Latin-inspired break near the end made me want to be a salsa dancer!

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

Christina: I'm probably the last person you should ask for advice when it comes to freestyling, because it's something I've yet to wrap my brain around. Like any dancer who started in a more choreography-centric environment, I've got a long road ahead of me in learning my craft's history and getting to know my body. The best thing I could say is to be you. Musicality and technique is very important and I'm trying to help advocate this running wave of dancers educating themselves, but sacrificing your personality (while dancing) at the cost of hitting every single beat or showing off your vast dance vocabulary doesn't appeal to me as a spectator. The freestylers I look up to and admire are ones who can mix their fundamentals with the song at hand in an exciting way but still remain true to their own movement.

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

Christina: It really depends. Sometimes I work best with songs I've known for ages so I really understand the artistry behind the instrumental and lyrics. Other times, a song being completely new to me pushes me to move in ways I'm not used to and creates a much more interesting product. I really enjoy choreographing with my dancing-life-partner (HAHA) Lakna Edi (together we make Deluxe), because our movement styles are so different, that we can just bounce off each other's vibes. Our creative process is definitely really special.

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

Christina: Starting at a young age, I would look to 90s tap dancers, because that's what I originally grew up doing. Savion Glover and Gregory Hines had such an effortlessly cool vibe to them. When I started learning about different genres of dance, strong powerful women like Martha Graham and Debbie Allen helped me understand that female dancers don't have to be pretty and delicate and that we can be strong and athletic like men. Now my influences span from Toronto to half way across the world, from genre to genre. I don't think I’ll ever have enough time to get into the dancers that inspire me and have inspired me in the past because I make it a point to learn from everyone I come across whether it is positive or negative.

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

Christina:  I enjoy so many Toronto choreographers for so many reasons. Lenny de la Pena was my first exposure to hip hop dance, so I've got to thank him for helping me fall in love with the art form. Any time I work with Danny Davalos, he really teaches me about discipline as a dancer and pushes me to my limits which has helped me structure my mindset. Taking class with Leon Blackwood, Tatiana Parker and Tamina Pollack-Paris over the years has been incredible, just to start seeing difficult and complex choreography not as discouraging but more as a positive challenge. Scott Fordham has really helped me understand the professional aspect of being a dancer and the nature of the industry. It would be impossible to narrow it down to one choreographer because all of these people have shaped me in such different and unique ways.

Nikki: Name an Artists you enjoy working with and why? (Could be another Dancer, choreographer, musician etc. Doesn't have to be from Toronto)

Christina: Recently I've developed an appreciation for working with artists who are still in the process of defining their style. There are obvious benefits from working with established artist who know what they want, but from choreographers on the come up like Leah Totten and Vanessa Li to break-through artists like Anjulie; there is something so special about being part of someone's creative process and I feel lucky to have been part of these three ladies journeys to find themselves on their way to becoming the best artists they can be.

Nikki:  Are you currently working on any projects?

Christina: Right now, I'm trying to work on myself in a lot of areas. I'm very blessed to have some super cool people around me that are helping me refine my craft from the ground up. I'm very much living by the mentality right now that instead of pursuing success, that if I strive to be at the top of my game hopefully success will pursue me.

Nikki:  Qualities you think Toronto Dancers possess?

Christina: I believe that above everything we are hungry. We aren't always afforded the same quality or quantity of work that dancers in other cities are, so we train to be able to deserve the few opportunities when they do arrive. I also believe we are unique, but not in the way dancers from every city have a different vibe. I think Toronto dancers are not just afraid to be different from LA or NY Dancers for example, but we are also not afraid to be different from each other. It's taken me to travel a little bit to understand how lucky we are to have a community that embraces our differences the way Toronto does.

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

Christina:  Never lose your love for it! Take breaks when needed, travel, learn your history, eat well, and don’t take yourself too seriously. Know when to put your head down and work your ass off, and when to take a stand for what you're worth.


Christine Wilson Photography
Christine Wilson Photography

Monday, June 4, 2012


This week’s Dancer/Choreographer shout out goes to Alana Randall. Alana, a Toronto native, always knew she wanted to be a performer.  At the age of 3, dance was what started her love for performing.  Alana has competed in dance competitions all over the country and the U.S.  She has had the opportunities of dancing for many artists such as Bow Wow, Boomtang Boys, Neil Young, and Katy Perry, to name a few.  You may have also seen her dancing for the Toronto Raptors Dance Pak and the Toronto Argonauts on court or on the field.

Aside from dancing, in her early pre-teens, Alana became serious about acting and singing.  She had already been in numerous commercials, films and music videos – but that wasn’t enough for her.  So she put a hold on her career to further her education in performance.  After high school, she studied theatre performance for a year at Humber College and went on to study musical theatre at the Randolph Academy.  After graduation, she worked hard to build a name in this industry. As if all that education wasn’t enough, not too long ago, Alana graduated from the New York Film Academy studying Broadcast Journalism in New York City and lived there for a good while. She came back to Canada to do a show and has been booked solid ever since. Alana has been seen in commercials for McDonalds, Payless Shoes, Liberty Mutual, and CTV’s “So You Think You Can Dance Canada.

A few years ago, Alana even gave film/TV acting a whirl and landed her first principal role playing the character of Maya in the MTV movie “MADE…The Movie”. After working on other TV/Film sets, she soon landed a principal role as a series regular on the CW hit TV series “Hellcats”, playing the character of Frankie. After the amazing experience of filming a full season, she knew that TV/Film was something that she wanted to pursue. Not to dismiss theatre, because this tiny triple threat of a performer will always be a theatre baby. Selected theatre credits include, “Vagina Monologues” (Jerry Orbach Theatre, NYC), “Hairspray” (Drayton Theatre), “High School Musical” as the role of Taylor McKessie (1st Canadian cast/Neptune/Drayton Theatre), “Footloose” as the role of Rusty ( Alumnae Theatre), “From Here To Africville” as the role of Eva Hattie (Factory Theatre). Alana will be a part of the cast of “The Wizard Of Oz” at the Ed Mirvish Theatre opening December 2012 and running until September 2013, followed by a North American tour. Alana feels truly blessed that she is able to do what she loves. She strives to inspire, be inspired, and create a strong impact on her audiences when she performs whether through movement, words, expression, or song.

Bio provided by Alana

Find out what Alana had to say in this week's shout out...

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

Alana: I don't really remember when I first started dancing because I was only 3 years old, however I do remember the first time I really knew that I wanted to perform for the rest of my life. I was 7 years old and performed my first Jazz solo. I didn't want to ever leave that stage and it was such an amazing feeling performing in front of a huge crowd and hearing them cheer for me!

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

Alana: I have a lot of memories of songs that I choreographed to. I think one memory that really sticks out at the moment was when I choreographed a Hip hop/Jazz piece to a mash-up of songs for an event called Carassauga. It was for a dance group when I was in High school. One of the songs in the mix was "Peaches 'n' Cream" by the group 112 which was popular at the time.

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

Alana: Relax, be free, and have fun. Feel every single bit of the music and let it translate through your body. Whatever you do, don't over think your moves. Just go go go!

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

Alana: It takes raw emotion and getting to that place. I usually choreograph to music that speaks to me at the time.

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

Alana: Janet Jackson, Michael Jackson and Paula Abdul where big influences for me while growing up. Right now, I'm a big fan of Mia Michaels choreography. There are so many that the list could go on forever! Lol

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

Alana: I really enjoy working with Jeff Dimitriou because he's such a generous choreographer. And by that I mean he is so talented in his choreography and in knowing exactly what he wants with his vision, but he is also open to the dancers adding their own personal 'swag' might I say to the choreo and giving us some freedom. I've worked with him for a while now on projects such as Hellcats and L.A. Complex, so I've really gotten to know what an amazing person he is as well.

Nikki: Name one of your favorite artists to work with and why? (Could be another Dancer, choreographer, musician etc. Doesn't have to be from Toronto)

Alana: Out of all the artists I'd worked with throughout my career so far, I'd say that my favorite to work with would be Shantall Young Oneto. She is such a talented Latina singer and a genuinely beautiful woman inside and out. She has so much soul in her music and truly loves what she does and has inspired me as well as many others.

Nikki: Are you currently working on any projects?

Alana: Well I just got back from performing in the musical called HAIR which ran since April at The Grand Theatre in London Ontario. I have different projects up in the air for the summer. I’m starring in an independent short film called “A good man is hard to find” it premieres at the TIFF bell Lightbox theatre in Toronto on June 4th. In November I'll be starting a contract with Mirvish Productions performing in the musical The Wizard Of Oz. It opens in December at the Ed Mirvish Theatre (formerly called The Canon) and will be in Toronto until September 2013. We will most likely head on a North American tour after that.

Nikki: Qualities you think Toronto Dancers possess?

Alana: Confidence, drive, flow, culture, creativity and edge. There's just that extra something that has set us apart and has given us a name in the music and dance industry all over the world.

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

Alana: Train, audition, and take as many classes as you can by different choreographers. It is crucial for a dancer/choreographer to be ahead of the game and continue to learn and grow as an artist whether you're working or not. It also keeps you in that circle so that your name gets out there. No matter how tough it gets in this industry, and trust me it can get really tough, don't give up on what you love. Keep pushing harder. And I know that it's easier said than done, but don't compare yourself to other artists because everyone is unique in their own individual way, and each performer has something special to offer.

Monday, May 28, 2012


This week’s Dancer/Choreographer shout out goes to Derick Robinson. “It takes an athlete to dance, but an artist to be a dancer." and Derick Robinson has made that transition. After many years of training at the provincial and national levels of soccer, Derick left his sporting roots behind to explore the world of dance. Starting out as just a hobby, dance has grown into more than just a passion; it’s his way of life. He has had the opportunity to work with such artists as Divine Brown at the “Toronto New Year’s Bash” to bring in 2011, and for Lady Gaga at the 2011 “Much Music Video Awards”. He is the founder and choreographer for the new all male Hip-Hop dance crew, The O.G. Crew (Original Gentlemen). They have competed at World of Dance Toronto, The Canadian Street Dance Championships, on Much Music’s Best Dance Crew and have recently performed for Trish at The America’s Next Top Model Live Event in Toronto, which he choreographed.
Over the past few years Derick has developed and refined his own style of dance that is only starting to be exposed to the Toronto scene. His work has been seen at The Bazaar Showcase, On Much Music and at Toronto’s Choreographer’s Ball. He believes that creating a connection between emotion, movement and the music is what makes his choreography so unique. As an up and coming choreographer in Toronto, his work has been described as creative, innovative and diverse. Derick’s choreography is based with Hip-Hop, but he likes to fuse it with other styles such as African and contemporary. Excited to continue his journey with dance; Derick is eager and enthusiastic to bring something new and different to the stage.

Bio provided by Derick

Follow on Twitter @DerickXclusiV
Connect on Facebook Derick Xclusiv Robinson

Find out what Derick had to say in this week's shout out...

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

Derick: The first time I started dancing was in grade 10. I was always the athletic guy doing all the sports, and one day I just decided to try something different and join the dance class at my high school. I had no idea was I was doing, seeing as the first thing we did in the class was ballet. It wasn’t exactly what I had expected, but I quickly started falling in love with the movement.

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

Derick: The very first song I choreographed to was call Rising Sun by DBSK. It was the first year I started the dance crew at my high school. We were called XclusiV. I had absolutely no idea what the words meant, but I fell in love with the rhythm and feel of the song. I remember that whole process like it was yesterday. We practiced for months, and once our performance was over it was one of the best feelings I have ever felt.

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

Derick: I know there are a lot of dancers that say they can’t freestyle. But when you strip down free styling down to what it actually is, it’s just moving. The best advice that I can give is to remember that free styling is just about freely dancing without the stress of having to mess up choreo. Just put on some music and move in any which way you please.

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

Derick: I think of doing choreography as if I were doing a puzzle. I need to have the right theme, purpose, music and motivation. Each one of these things has to come together to be able for me to get in the zone. Sometimes it can take me 30 minutes to choreograph something and other times it takes weeks. Some dances are more complex and others are just for fun. I have to have all the right pieces to be able to get a finished product. If I can’t have all of these elements come together then it just doesn’t feel right, I don’t know how many dances I have scraped and started over because I wasn’t getting the right feeling from them. Choreographing takes a lot of patience.

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

Derick: There are so many people that have influenced my dancing and myself. First off would be Mike Song, he is the reason I got into hip-hop and has always been a huge idol of mine. Ian Eastwood is one of my biggest influences. I can really connect with his dancing. The passion and musicality he puts into his dances are incredibly inspiring. Some others are Keone Madrid, Mariel Martin, Tony Tran, Jaja Vankova, Jillian Meyers, Megan Lawson, Leon Blackwood, Shameka Blake and Esie Mensah.

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

Derick: One of my biggest inspirations would be Hollywood Jade. He is basically the one that found me as a dancer and helped introduce me to so many people in the industry. He gave me my very first dancing gig. He has always pushed me to be the best that I can be and to never settle for anything less, and he has been there for me in any situation. His creative visions are always of phenomenal quality and class. Without him, I don’t know where I would be with dance, or if I would even be dancing at all today.

Nikki: Name one of your favorite artists to work with and why?(Could be another Dancer, choreographer, musician etc. Doesn't have to be from Toronto)

Derick: My favorite person to work with would be Shameka Blake. She has this incredible ability to bring out movement in me that I never thought I could be able to do. Sometimes I really don’t understand how certain the things can come out of her brain. “I can’t” literally doesn’t exist in her vocabulary, so there is no limit with her and she always strives for perfection, which brings out the best in me.

Nikki: Are you currently working on any projects?

Derick: The biggest thing I’m working on right now is with my crew The O.G. Crew (Original Gentlemen) we have qualified to represent Canada at the World Street Dance Championships in England at the end of August. So we are currently trying to do as much fundraising as we possibly can to come up with enough money to go over there and compete. So keep a look out for workshops, performances and small little fun things that are going to be coming from us in the near future.

Nikki: Qualities you think Toronto Dancers possess?

Derick: I believe that Toronto dancers are always hungry for more. We push and push and push to be the best we can be at all times. There is always a fire burning inside of us that makes us want to do as much as we can to become the best we can be. I honestly think that Toronto dancers are really underrated in the larger dance industry. But I also believe that the world is soon to have their eyes opened very wide. Toronto is ready for movements.

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

Derick: I think the biggest advice that I can give comes from a quote that I live by, “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn't change you”. If you always sit back in your comfort zone with dancing or choreographing you will never be able to grow and develop. Take the risk and try a new style of dance, try a harder class, try anything new and different. You will always know your abilities, but you will never know where those abilities can take you if you don’t reach as far as you can. Don’t ever get comfortable, dare to be challenged, dare to fail and dare to be unique.



Monday, May 21, 2012


The week’s Dancer/Choreographer shout out goes to Kate Knox. Originally from Stouffville, Ontario, Kate began dancing at 3. She trained at The Stouffville Dance Centre in ballet, tap and Graham technique under the direction of Michele Green, and later Deborah Radbourne. Upon entrance to the arts program formally known as Arts York at Unionville High school, Kate was introduced to jazz, musical theatre and hip hop, and was exposed to the world of competitive dance, although never competed.  She continued her education at Ryerson University, earning her RAD Intermediate Vocational Exam and her B.F.A. in Performance Dance. During her time at the Ryerson Theatre School she had the opportunity to study and work with established dance artists such as Kenny Pearl, Robert Glumback, Darryl Tracy, Allen Kaeja, Derek Sangster and Christopher House. Kate has continued to hone her craft not only as a dancer, but as an actor and singer. She has delved into life as a showgirl after performing with Sophie Luxton at Second City in 2009. She is currently working with DivaGirl Entertainment and DivaGirl Fitness with Laura Furtado, Nuvo-Burlesque and Carla Catherwood, and Motus O Dance Theatre. Her choreography will be showcased as part of Kokus Production’s Toronto Fringe Festival show entitled “Numbers” July 6-15 at Factory Theatre, and can be found on stage with Nuvo-Burlesque’s Electronic Cabaret on June 8th at the Mod Club.

Select performance credits include: Love Letters (Pastel Supernova Enterprises) Iphigenia in Tauris (Canadian Opera Company), Circus Terrifico, Perspectives I, Carmina Burana (Motus O),  Lagrima for Women in Dance (Melissa Nascimeto-So), Steam Heat: A Fosse Celebration, Titanic: The Musical, A Chorus Line, CATS (Curtain Call Players), Fever and Fever II (Sophie Luxton), Table Talk, Four Forces to Building Your Soul (for Dance Ontario Weekend 2010 and 2011 with City Dance Corps), A Glendale Christmas (Dodo Productions as part of the Hamilton Fringe Festival 2009), Gameshow: The Musical (as part of Toronto Fringe and Best of the fest 2008)

Bio Provided by Kate.

Find out what Kate had to say in this week's shout out...

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

Kate: I started ballet lessons when I was three in the gym of the elementary school down the street back when my family was in Markham. I remember the lady has long brown hair and at the time I thought she was the prettiest woman ever! If you ask my parents through they’ll likely tell you how I was dancing wedding entertainment by the time I could walk.

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

Kate: Oh god! I was in fourth grade and it was a talent show and I choreographed my first ballet piece as a solo to “In the Hall of the Mountain King” by Edvard Greig. I didn’t win, and I was pretty mercilessly mocked for choreographing to classical music instead of doing something off Dance Mix ’95 like everyone else. I was a big geek as a kid.

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

Kate: There’s so much I want to say on this subject! I think the biggest one I can think of is give everyone one a reason to watch you. It doesn’t mean you have to pull out every trick in your back pocket. Sometimes all you have to do is stand or walk with a presence and people can’t take their eyes off you. One look and they could fall in love. The more you wear your heart on your sleeve as you dance, the more compelling you are, and no one can take that away from you or criticize it. Feel the music, listen to your body and let your love tell everyone who you are.

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

Kate: I’m a huge audiophile so music is a big drive for me. From that music I can usually get an emotion or a certain story I want to tell with it. Then I do my best to bring it to life the way I feel it. Sometimes I just like to let the music play and see what happens when I stop thinking and just move.

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

Kate: There are three women in the past year especially who have really helped me evolve as a dancer and re-affirm that this is what I want to do and where I want to be:
Laura Furtado really taught me the business side of the arts first hand and gave me the tools and encouragement to really make this a career without succumbing to a day job. She really is a self made woman and I’m constantly learning new skills and tricks and meeting new and fantastic entrepreneurs through her. She’s been my go-to as a role-model for women in business.
Carla Catherwood has really changed my dancing in a year and a half. She’s continued to push me. I never really saw myself as anything urban and through her I’ve found a whole other quality I loved to watch in other people but never really thought I was capable of. It’s really given a confidence to continue doing things that are out of my comfort zone and push myself as a dancer and technician.
Pastel Supernova is nothing short of a goddess. Working with her in Love Letters was the most emotional, exhausting, straining, trying, lovely, overwhelming and altering experience and I would be so lucky to do it all again. She really taught me not to be afraid of my passion and that vulnerability truly is the most important asset as an artist. She is an embodiment of staying true to who you are and what you want and putting your whole heart into it as you do it.

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

Kate: There’s so many!! I loved my time with Darryl Tracy. He’s just a delightful person and a brilliant choreographer who really tests your brain as well as your body. I also really liked working with Melissa Nascimeto-So. She’s just a beautiful and bubbling energy and the time really seems to fly by with her.

Nikki:  Name an Artist you enjoy working with and why?(Could be another Dancer, choreographer, musician etc. Doesn't have to be from Toronto)

Kate: It’s not a single artist but I’m really enjoying this new time with the hip hop/urban dance community. There’s so much talent and creativity and everyone is incredibly loving and supportive. It’s a beautiful collective that’s so exciting and diverse. I still feel like a fish out of water sometimes, but I’m learning so much from everyone!

Nikki:  Are you currently working on any projects?

Kate: I have a piece of my own choreography in Kokus Production’s Fringe piece called Numbers. It’s a contemporary duet between two main characters expression their longing of a time that was and heartache of what can never be. Show runs July 6-15 at Factory Theatre. Check out the Faceboook Page:
We’re also in the last few rehearsals and touch ups for the next Chic-A-Boom Room at Mod Club called Electronic Cabaret. It’s going to be a very sexy show, a lot of great specticale and fantastic dancing with an Army of Sass of over 40 women. Show is one night only on June 8th, tickets are $20. You can check out the Facebook event:  and Facebook Page:

Nikki: Qualities you think Toronto Dancers possess?

Kate: Their dedication to their craft. Toronto dancers are die-hard and willing to put up with a lot of shit just to dance. Their work ethic is incomparable. I find their greatest strength is their greatest weakness, as sometimes there a people who take advantage of this beautiful dedication, and that’s just not right. This city has some absolutely amazing talent and artistry, and it always breaks my heart when I hear that that hard work haven’t paid off.

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


-          If you want it, you’ll make it happen. If you don’t you’ll make an excuse.
-          Know your worth. You’re going to spend at least the first year working for peanuts if you’re lucky, but there comes a point in your career where you decide you’ve gone through the trenches enough and your talent and experience is valuable. When that time come, stand your ground on it. Treat your craft as any other tradesman does. You don’t hire a plumber to fix a leak and expect the service for free. You are providing a service. You are no different.
-          Don’t allow other people’s definition of success to define you. It’s easy to get caught up on what other people are doing, especially with Facebook. Don’t think that their success is better than yours, or that it should all happen at the same time. It’s relative. Like my grandfather keeps telling me: It takes years to become an overnight success. 


Monday, May 14, 2012


This week's Dancer/Choreographer shout out goes to Jennifer Aucoin. Jennifer is a full-time salsa instructor, choreographer and event organizer. She is the founder and director of STEPS Dance Studio, artistic director for Steps Dance Company and co-founder of the Women’s Salsa Retreat.   She is the organizer of the annual Six Degrees Salsa Competition in Toronto, one of the most prestigious salsa competitions in Canada. Jennifer has represented Canada on the judging panel for the World Salsa Championships televised on ESPN for the past four years and has judged competitions in Puerto Rico, Ecuador, New York, Las Vegas, Orlando, Miami, Detroit, Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto. 

Jennifer is the organizer of the annual Canada Salsa Congress, an international salsa festival that takes place in Toronto every October. This 4-day extravaganza is the largest salsa event in Canada and features nightly performances by dance companies from all over the world and daily salsa workshops given by world-renowned instructors. This year marks the 10 year anniversary of the Canada Salsa Congress and will take place October 4-8, 2012 at the Westin Harbour Castle Hotel.

Jennifer is also co-founder of Discover Dance Canada, an organization which teaches Latin Dance to elementary and high school students.  This program was born with the mission to build confidence, self-esteem and cultural awareness in children and teens through Latin Dance in the school curriculum.

Jennifer has been involved in dance and the performing arts her entire life and has extensive training in gymnastics, ballet, flamenco, Argentine tango and, of course, salsa. To keep progressive, she continues to travel extensively to learn from the world’s best dancers and instructors, and has attended dozens of salsa congresses in Puerto Rico, Los Angeles, New York, Colombia, Ecuador, Miami, Zurich, Amsterdam, Washington, Boston, Detroit, Ottawa and Montreal. Jennifer also teaches salsa workshops internationally and has taught in Puerto Rico, Holland, Ecuador, Washington, Los Angeles, Miami, Orlando, Detroit, Montreal and Ottawa.

Bio provided by Jennifer

Find out what Jennifer had to say in this week's shout out...

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

Jennifer: I first started dancing with my sister and cousins when I was really young - 4 or 5 years old.  I then did gymnastics for 10 years then ballet for 10 years.  The first time I ever danced Salsa was on vacation in the Dominican Republic - and that got me hooked to a lifetime career of teaching Latin Dance.

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

Jennifer: Actually first song I remember choreographing to was Help Me Rhonda by the Beach Boys with my cousin when I was probably 6 years old.  First salsa song I remember choreographing to for a group routine was Ran Kan Kan in 1999.

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

Jennifer: I think the best advice I can give to other dancers for free styling is to let your love and enjoyment of the dance show in your free styling.  Let your inhibitions go and remember why dancing brings you joy and that no one is judging you more harshly than you judge yourself so have fun!

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

Jennifer: I need a song that I really like and I usually prefer to choreograph with another person so that we can bounce ideas off one another.

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

Jennifer: In the Dance industry, Alvin Ailey and their amazing choreographies and in the Salsa industry - Tito Ortos and Tamara Livolsi and Billy Fajardo and Katie Marlowe for their professionalism and integrity and creativity.

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

Jennifer: I love choreographing with Angelo De Torres who works for Steps Dance Studio because we magically are able to choreograph really quickly and painlessly together.

Nikki: Are you currently working on any projects? 

Jennifer: Working on organizing the 10 year anniversary of the Canada Salsa Congress coming up this October as well as teaching more workshops in elementary and high schools through Discover Dance Canada

Nikki: Qualities you think Toronto Dancers possess?

Jennifer: I think Toronto dancers have a great ability to use and reference techniques and movements from all different genres of dance because we are such a culturally diverse city.