“Waterloo Region has incredible tech and insurance companies as well as amazing universities and colleges, but creating a healthy community must include art and culture.”
Steph AT Neptune theatre. Photo by Veronique Mackenzie
What was it like growing up in the Waterloo Region?
The Waterloo Region was a great place to grow up. The arts and culture scene is very strong and my parents were able to expose us to all kinds of performances. Although I didn’t attend an arts high school, we were encouraged to be well rounded. Music, drama and sports were just as important as academics. This has served me well in all aspects of my life.
Describe your process to becoming a professional artist. What were the steps where you just knew they were right? Which ones did you need a push to take?
I started dancing at Carousel Dance Centre at age six which, at the time, was associated with the University of Waterloo Dance Program. I also attended the National Ballet School for a year at age eleven and summer schools around the country. The dance studio was always a safe place and I felt most like myself while dancing. During high school I got introduced to performing in theatre and did three productions with KWMP. I was encouraged to audition for the Musical Theatre program at Sheridan College, but definitely needed a push from my parents to go. University and a biology degree were always going to be my path, but they were so very supportive and helped me to defer those science acceptances for a year if I wanted to change my mind. Of course, I loved Sheridan and graduated with honours. Those three years solidified my passion and direction.
Sleep, water and good nutrition.
It is well known that you are ALWAYS WORKING! You seem to always have multiple projects and initiatives on the go. How do you balance all of these projects and stay balanced yourself?
Balance can sometimes be difficult when you are juggling a lot of projects, but I have an amazing husband and two hilarious dogs that keep me present and grounded. We walk twice daily so have time to connect together. We do have to carve out time to do things together and with friends though. You have to make time for your relationships. Yoga also helps!!!
Have you discovered any personal elements that need to be in place in order for you to continue to put your best work forward?
Sleep, water and good nutrition.
I am trying to give myself space to not always be on a schedule and take time to think about what kind of art I want to put into the world. Some days I need that structure though and that is okay and I blast through a to do list. Also staying active with daily workouts and connecting with family has been really helpful.
What has it been like to have this lifestyle put on pause potentially with the COVID19 quarantine?
It is pretty tough. There is so much collective grief about projects that will not get to be realized and not knowing where to focus my energy. I am trying to stay creative either by reading, creating choreography or motivating others to keep moving. I am trying to give myself space to not always be on a schedule and take time to think about what kind of art I want to put into the world. Some days I need that structure though and that is okay and I blast through a to do list. Also staying active with daily workouts and connecting with family has been really helpful.
Amongst your directing and choreographing, you steadily continue to teach, adjudicate, and share your wisdom through mediums such as these! What is it about teaching that continues to pull you back?
I learn so much from students about my own craft as a director or choreographer, how to better communicate and lead…and the energy and passion from students is infectious. These environments are so inspiring to be around.
Dancers start training so early in our lives that sometimes we just need a break. I think if you step away from dance for a while, you will discover whether you need it in your life or not. And the minute you go back to class you will know.
Your resume shows the vast range of styles you have choreographed; from classics like Anne of Green Gables, to contemporaries like The Wild Party and even Shakespeare with your work on The Winter’s Tale with Graham Abbey! How does your process change depending on these different genres of work?
The movement in a theatrical piece always has to serve the story, so my process is fairly similar even though the pieces I work on can differ greatly in style and form. Research is always key and I always have many conversations with the director. Once we know what the physical language of the piece will be, I can tailor make the choreography to suit the actors and their skill level.
There is an innate joy and love of dance in your work. Do you have any words of inspiration for those who have lost theirs? Have you ever lost sight of this joy? How did you rediscover it?
The movement in a theatrical piece always has to serve the story
If your life was a musical, what would the title be?
“Dreams don’t work unless you do.” – the musical!
Why do you think theatre is important for the Waterloo Region?
Theatre is important in all communities. Waterloo Region has incredible tech and insurance companies as well as amazing universities and colleges, but creating a healthy community must include art and culture.