Monday, February 27, 2012


This weeks Dancer/Choreographer shout out goes to Deona Scott. Growing up in South Texas surrounded by Hispanic culture and latin dancing, Deona always had a passion for dance. She started out making up dances in her backyard with her neighbors for talent shows, but mostly for fun! Never attending a formal studio she became a cheerleader in Junior High to have some form of dance structure and training. At a young age she started choreographing plays for her local high school and battling at all age’s events around her city.  At the age of 15 she relocated to Canada, she was shocked to see how many dance studios were in town. It was a change from where she was raised. Without any formal training, Deona stepped into a studio at the age of 16 and began taking classes in hip hop, jazz and ballet. Since then she has won full paid scholarships, partial paid dance tours, choreography awards and more. Since her move to Toronto she’s been able to co-choreograph competition numbers, and stage shows for the clothing company Hurley. She has recently been featured in music videos, on local television, and stages across Toronto. 

With that same drive she had as a little girl growing up in Texas, Deona is non-stop pursing her passion within the Dance industry. She trains with any choreographer who catches her eye. She’s focused and motivated on pursing her Dreams.  

Bio Provided by Deona

Deona on Twitter @BigDeeeeeee

Check out what Deona had to say in this weeks shout out...

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

Deona: I think I was 6 years old. My neighbors and I decided that we were the Spice Girls and made a little group with dances, took picutres, and all that stuff. I was ginger spice! ;) 

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

Deona: Well I co-choreographed to 'Spice up your life'. I literally made up dances in my room as a kid all the time. I would say first choreo of my own was Survivor - Destinys Child when I in Grade 6! It was for an American Idol competion at my school. 

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

Deona: DON'T THINK. DON'T EVEN LOOK AT YOURSELF. Just do! If you are doing that particular move it's probably because it feels right. You dance because you love it -- so you should just love your freestyle & enjoy yourself.

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

Deona: I have to really believe in what I'm doing. The song has to have some sort of meaning to my life, or I need to have a solid idea. After that I just replay forever until I got something I feel good with! You don't want to be in the room with me. Replay, replay, reeeeeplay!

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

Deona: I have so many. I look up to so many people. Pastel Supernova, Angela Mahoney, Natalli Rezink, Tatiana Parker, Alex Crenian, Vanessa Young.. I love how passionate they are about what they are doing. I find it so facinating! 

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

Deona: SO MANY! Laura Furtado is a really easy and fun person to work with. My recent favourite is Jojo Zolina! He oozes talent. It comes out of his bones! Carla Catherwood's choreography is forever with me. I will take her choreography to my death bed I swear.

Nikki: Name one of your favorite artists to work with and why?

Deona: Anytime I've ever worked with Pastel I leave so inspired! I love it! I'd say right now my favourite is Derrick Sangster. He's so old school - it's great. 

Nikki: Are you currently working on any projects?

Deona: Yes! I'm working closely with Miss T.D.O.T. herself Nikki Johnson herself on a Coyote Ugly style project! I'm also choreographing/dancing the GAGA section in an event for DivaGirl Entertainment as well as working as their booking agent. Always training, always learning. I'm in Carla Catherwod's  'sassy fun' group called NUVO there is always a lot happening with the Chic-a-Boom Room! Vanessa Young and I are in the works of creating a Bi-Costal Hype Art Project called 'Those Girls'. 

Nikki: Qualities you think Toronto Dancers possess?

Deona: Community, Passion, Art, and Drive. 

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

Deona: Well, I would say that I am still one of them, but. GO TAKE CLASS! GO AUDITION! GO LEARN! Talk to people, ask those questions and find out how they did it! Create your own path.



Monday, February 20, 2012


This weeks Dancer/Choreographer shout out goes to Gabriella DeBartolo. Gabriella aka Gabby has been dancing and performing around Toronto for 20 years. Since the tender age of three, she started with classical ballet and jazz but soon realized her real passion was in acrobatics/contortion. Discovering her gift early on, Gabriella learned how to contort her body that would make audiences gasp and applaud.  Gabriella, hungry to learn and train as much dance as possible, attended Etobicoke School of the Arts where she studied Ballet and Modern dance at an intense level. Here she was exposed to some of Modern’s most influential choreographers, Gabby Kamino, Milton Myers (Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre) and Danny Grossman (Danny Grossman Dance Company) just to name a few.  Gabriella has performed across Canada and United States. In 2008 Gabriella won a ballet scholarship to train at the Pavlova Academy in Bergamo, Italy

While earning her BA at Ryerson University, she put her dance training to good use while on Ryersons cheerleading team as one of the main flyers.

Gabriella is a well respected dance teacher in Toronto, creating the next generations of acrobats. She has recently prepared one of her exceptional acrobats to audition for L'ecole des National de Cirque.  However she still continues to teach ballet, jazz, tap and musical theatre.

Gabriella is currently a senior member of the Toronto based entertainment company The Dance Company, where she gets to do what she does best, perform! She assists the director on events and is one of the main choreographers. She recently co-organized and choreographed a group of acrobats to kick off the Toronto Luminato Festival in 2011.

Gabriella also works with A2D2; An Aerial & Dance Cirque Co., a multi disciplined entertainment company. She is the company’s resident contortionist and is currently training in aerial hoop and silks. Recently with A2D2, Gabriella was honoured to showcase her contortion abilities at the IIFA( International Indian Film Academy) ROCKS Awards that were held in Toronto summer 2011 and participate in Christmas Cabaret, A2D2's annual fundraiser for Spinal Research.

Gabriella’s passion for dance and contortion is evident through her performance and teaching.  She loves to explore the different ways one can contort their body, creating something magical.  She loves to push her students and encourage them that anything is possible. Every dancer is different and every dancer is beautiful.

The World Is A Better Place When Hanging Upside Down” – GDB

Find out what Gabby had to say in this weeks shout out...

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

Gabby: Yes I do! I was 3 and my mother put me into dance class because I was an extremely hyper child and she wanted me to burn off some energy. She originally thought gymnastics would be best, but my dad feared with my hyper personality I would fling myself off the bars and injure myself. Dance was the feet stayed firmly on ground. And my first routine was a ballet dance to “Teaddy Bear Picnic”

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

Gabby: My elementary school had a yearly Air Guitar competition. Students would put together dance routines imitating their favourite groups and would compete. In grade 5 (10 years old) I entered myself as a solo act. While all groups performed to Vengaboys, Shania Twain or BSB, I choreographed a solo to Madonna’s “Express Yourself”. I was kind of the outcast growing up, so to perform alone really shocked the students and staff and also it was never done before at the school. What gave me the inspiration to perform solo was this one line from the song, “Second best is never enough, you’ll do much better baby on your own”. And guess what, this baby did much better on her own....I won first place :)

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

Gabby: Fast and Blunt: Shut up and do it. Don’t worry about who’s watching, don’t worry if you’re on the beat, just do it for yourself because in the end that’s who you should be dancing for! You dance because you love it and it makes you feel good. Take the world out of your head and just go for it.

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

Gabby: A quiet space where I can zone out. Or often times the subway is where I get my best ideas. Just riding back and forth focusing on nothing but my music. I’ve gotten some wicked ideas just from going to work in the morning. 

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

Gabby: I absolutely love with Wade Robson. I would love to explore his mind because he comes up with some of the most ridiculous choreography I’ve ever seen. It’s so dark and twisted and deep. It’s amazing! I recently took his classes when The Pulse workshop was in Toronto in Feb. It was like a dream come true, Wade is creatively brilliant.

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

Gabby: I love working with George Absi. Whenever I find out I'm learning his choreo for an upcoming show, I know it's going to be a hilarious rehearsal; ad he's going to make me look good! He's just great, period.

I was blessed to be feature in Women In Dance twice, and my first time I worked with the lovely Melissa Nascimento-So. She is a beautiful choreographer and I am honoured that I got to put my heart on the stage through her emotionally beautiful piece. 

Nikki: Name one of your favorite artists to work with and why?

Gabby: I love working with the circus artists at A2D2. These girls are so inspiring and influential and I just hope I'm half as good as they are one day. Their expertise of aerial arts and their passion for it, makes working with them 100x more enjoyable. Shout out to the Scroops! ;)

Nikki: Are you currently working on any projects?

Gabby: I am continuing doing choreography for The Dance Company for many upcoming and exciting projects we have. 

And when I'm not dancing I'm training in aerial hoop and performing my contortion routines for various projects events.

Nikki: Qualities you think Toronto Dancers posses?

Gabby: I think Toronto Dancers posses fire. I've worked with many artists across North America and Italy, but us Torontonians have a fire inside of us that I can't really explain. We have this hunger and drive that's overpowering. We always want more and no is NEVER an answer for us. We'll keep fighting.

Nikki: Any advice for emerging Dancers and or Choreographers working/training in Toronto?

Gabby: Keep going for what you love and NEVER stop. There is nothing more unattractive than people who sit and complain that their dreams are not coming true. Keep busting your butt an you will get there! There is only one person who can stop you from succeeding and that's you. Take out all the negative energy in your life and focus on the prize.


Monday, February 13, 2012


This weeks Dancer/Choreographer shout out goes to Leah Totten. Born and raised in smalltown Aylmer Quebec, Leah moved to Toronto a year ago hoping to expand her knowledge and experience within the dance industry. When she is not traveling, Leah teaches weekly drop-in classes and choreographs for Canadian events and music artists. She has worked across North America as a teacher with artistic directorship and choreography experience in over fifty studios, schools, dance institutions and hip hop crews, including Providence (Rhode Island), Harbour Dance Centre (Vancouver) and Debbie Reynolds Dance Studio (Los Angeles). Leah was also a chosen intern for Essence Dance Company (Gigi Torres) and was featured as "Become The Next" at Boogiezone University; a professional dance intensive where she taught alongside 50 of the industry’s best. Leah recently spent a month in Europe teaching 30+ workshops in London, Nottingham, Ireland, Scotland, Poland, Hungary and Romania. This young choreographer is always looking for ways to push the envelope and explore all sides of the ever-growing hip hop culture.

Bio provided by Leah

Find out what Leah had to say in this weeks shout out...

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

Leah: I fell into dancing by accident at the age of 13. I used to be a total jock and played everything from soccer, volleyball, karate to rugby and many more. I also figure skated and my coach suggested I take a dance class to help with my posture and musicality.. I fell in love with it and the rest is history! 

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

Leah: The first time i ever choreographed was in Grade 6 for a show and tell day. From what I can remember it was “Dirty Pop” by Nsync... and it was pretty terrible.

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

Leah: To be honest, I’m not much of a freestyler. It is something that I’ve recently really started working on.. so I’m not sure that I’m the one to be getting advice from! 
However, I do believe though the the more you practice and the more familiar you are with your body, your range of motion and dance vocabulary.. the easier it gets. 

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

Leah: For class, I usually decide to use songs that reflect how I’m feeling or represent something that I have been inspired by in real life. Even for projects which I don’t have the luxury of picking my music, I spend time just sitting, studying the the track and visualizing what I want to see come to reality. Once I’m ready to try it out, I usually need to be alone, to be chewing gum, and I always choreograph with headphones so i can hear all the hidden musicality in the song. I barely use a mirror anymore because we can get caught up in that. I just move and do what feels right. 

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

Leah: This is a tough question. I have been influenced and inspired by hundreds of different people throughout my travels in the past few years. I believe that every teacher or choreographer has a different purpose. One might be to encourage you to be the cleanest dancer you can be, while others will help you open your mind creatively through choreography and others may change your outlook on dance and art in general. Someone who has impacted me in refining my vision not only through her movement but her lifestyle, leadership ability and her business approach is Gigi Torres. I had the opportunity to work for her this summer in Los Angeles and it was an experience I will never forget.

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

Leah: There are far too many brilliant choreographers in Toronto to name and it is an absolute honour to work with any of them :)

Nikki: Name one of your favorite artists to work with and why? (Could be another Dancer, recording artist etc.) 

Leah: I am not the type to single anyone out, and there truly are so many amazing people I’ve worked with. The beauty about dance is that we are all connected and united, regardless of where you live in the world. I was blessed to work with some phenomenal people throughout my tour in Europe in November and December. It is not an artist.. however, I can name my favorite place to work in Toronto: RightFoot Dance Studio. There is an amazing group of people there with such a supportive atmosphere and I feel so blessed to call that my Toronto home. 

Nikki: Are you currently working on any projects?

Leah: Sometimes I feel like I have a little too much on the go haha! I have about 2-3 major shows per month booked already, alongside more North American and European workshop tours. There’s lots of traveling coming up in the next few months again, and I will be working with Chonique Sneed and Lisette Bustamante next month in NYC. Lastly, I will also be launching a company and an urban clothing line later this year.  

Nikki: Qualities you think Toronto Dancers possess?

Leah: Everywhere I go, people always talk about this “Toronto swag” that we apparently have! I prefer to think that we have alot of heart, are ready to work hard and are strong individuals. I am so happy to call Toronto my new home!

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

Leah: The number one thing that I would like to pass on is that (as cliche as it may sound), you truly CAN accomplish anything you set your mind to if you work hard enough. It is definitely not easy and you will face challenges along the way, but it is ultimately worth it. The most urgent question is: How bad do you want it?

I still have so much to learn and I don’t particularly feel deserving of being featured beside so many amazing dancers, teachers and choreographers on this post... However, I have been blessed with opportunities that I once thought were completely unattainable and even impossible, which means that you can make it happen too!
In sum:
1) Figure out what you want to do/accomplish
2) Put it out into the universe (talk about it, write it down etc)
3) Map out what steps you need to take in order to make it happen 
4) Go for it full force! Anything is possible :) 


Monday, February 6, 2012


This weeks Dancer/Choreographer shout out goes to Tamara Bally. Tamara is a professionally trained dancer with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance from York University and a graduate of Sheridan College’s Performing-Preparation Program with Mark Melymick. Her educational background has allowed Tamara to understand the roots of Dance including Modern, Ballet, and Pedagogy. Tamara continued to explore some of the world’s dance forms including: Hip-Hop, Street Jazz, Cuban Salsa, West-African, Afro-Cuban, Bhangra and Bollywood. Her diversity has enabled her to sink her heels in some of the worlds dance forms.
Her continued rising career has granted her the opportunity to work with some of Toronto’s most influential artists including, dancing for Grammy Award winner Feist’s “1,2,3,4”, “My Moon, My Man”, as well as K-OS’ “Sunday Morning”. She has worked on set of the Blockbuster hit “The Love Guru”, and choreographed and performed with South Asian Urban Artist Shweta Subram and Namoi Zaman, Kama Entertainment and the Chic-A-Boom Room. She has performed for the International Indian Film Awards and Canadian Music Week – just a few of the many events Tamara has worked for in Toronto and Montreal.
Tamara Bally is a passionate and fierce dancer who has dedicated her life to her craft. She consistently keeps herself current, relevant and innovative by immersing herself in the dance community – always pushing her skills and creativity to the next level.

“I want to make you slap happy, buckle in the knees and wipe away those sneaky tears. Any immense emotion you feel from my performance means I did what I set out to do-entertain you.”

Bio Provided by Tamara

Check out what Tamara had to say in this weeks shout out...

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

Tamara: I was seven, I had seen the infamous Wizard of Oz Show at my school and was sold. The flips, tricks and twirls were all I needed to see. I just knew I wanted to be a part of the epic scenario that was unfolding on stage and I needed to right away. I started as a gymnast first which lead me into dance. 

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

Tamara: J.Lo “Love don’t cost a thing” (chuckles) I was inspired to create a piece that made me feel the way I felt watching the dance break.  The dancers were swift and held so much strength in that routine.

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

Tamara: Let go. That is something I constantly have to remind myself of. Trust yourself and your capabilities. Never doubt the amazing things you can do when you just connect with the music. Find a piece of music that just makes your heart drop; I always freestyle to songs that initiate an emotion which translates into movement that is passionate. You can start layering it once you become more comfortable. Keep practicing, invest the time to strengthen your freestyle, it’s a great way to show who you are as an artist. 

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

Tamara: Inspiration. What story or emotion do I want to convey? I need to feel passionately about the song or piece I am creating. 

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

Tamara: Bob Fosse, Jerome Robbins, Luam, Rhapsody James, Dana Foglia and Jerome Browne. The connection between all of them is that they are not afraid to allow increments of what makes them unique shine through their choreography. Fosse has an entire repertoire focused around his own posture, swag and interpretation of the music. They are all risk takers with their choreography and never settle for the minimum. They push you as much as they push themselves to allow their greatness to reach its fullest.  

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

Tamara: I have been taking Leon Blackwood’s class and I have to say I am so inspired every time I am in his class. I am so amped by the end of his classes that I’m ready for another class. My body is tired but feeding off of his passion for dance makes me so driven to succeed in his classes and really live in every movement of the choreography. The way he teaches his movements and connects it with feeling and telling a story is important to me as an artist and as a performer. 

 Name one of your favorite artists to work with and why?

Tamara: Working on set Feist’s “1234” was one of my favorite experiences. It was my first music video that I was a part of and the entire cast, crew and Feist herself was amazing. Tons of positive and creative people in one place is a reminder you are exactly where you need and want to be. She is so humble and was a pleasure to work with.

Nikki: Are you currently working on any projects?

Tamara: I have taken on a few projects that are very diverse and unique in their own right.
  • I’ve taken on a Vaudeville inspired Cabaret by PastelSupernova called Love Letters with KJ McKnight as the Co-Choreographer, February 8 & 9th. It is so playful and the creativity has no bounds in this show. Love Letters Cabaret
  • Since I got back from New York I have been involved in CarlaCatherwood’s Chic-A-Boom Room Shows as one of the Nuvo-Burlesque ladies.
  • I have ongoing projects with DivaGirl Entertainment; I have been really blessed to work with someone as turbo charged to consistently succeed as Laura Furtado.
  • Lindsay Ritter’s The Dream Show for Dance Ontario Weekend.
I am consistently blogging all of my events on:

Nikki: Qualities you think Toronto Dancers possess?

Tamara: We have a determination to succeed and a hunger for dance, we hussle to get our hands on as much dance as our bodies can handle.

I love that thirst to create that Toronto Dancers have. Keeps me on my toes to constantly train and work on my craft. 

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

Tamara: Passion mixed with work ethic and discipline will take you very far. Be confident in your capabilities and discover what makes you a unique performer and artist.