We are very excited to announce our NEW 2018/19 RBC Emerging Artists Project participants! We chatted with the four incredible individuals: Micha Baltman, Sierra Chin Sawdy, Jessica Germano, and Kathleen Legassick to learn about their careers as young dance artists and what they hope to gain from working with Peggy and her dancers.
How did you get your start?
Micha Baltman: I was lucky to attend the Etobicoke School of the Arts starting in music theatre and slowly transitioned to dance. Although I had never trained or taken a proper class before, I was taken under the wing of Gabby Kamino, Colleen Friedman, and Shari Teichman. They taught me all the first things I know about dance and even though I was technically behind everyone else they allowed me to do as many classes as I wanted and supported my creative work. From there I attended the School of Toronto Dance Theatre for a year before being accepted by The Place (London Contemporary Dance School).
Jessica Germano: I can’t remember an exact moment when I got my start dancing. According to my family, I danced constantly which was a sign that at the age of 3, it was time to enrol me in classes. Once I was immersed into that world, I could not picture a world without it. I have never stopped since. I started ballet at a small studio in Oakville, then another small studio in Welland where I was exposed to other forms of dance, and continued on to professional training at Ryerson University.
Kathleen Legassick: I started dancing at the age of 2. I attended the Canadian School of Dance in Barrhaven, Ottawa where my training had a strong focus in ballet, jazz, and tap. I completed my Advanced A.D.A.P.T jazz and tap exams as well as earned my Solo Seal Award for R.A.D. I began taking a serious interest in dance at the age of 8 when I competed in dance competitions across North America. I continued to compete until I was 17 years old. When it came to post secondary education I could not imagine myself not dancing. I decided to continue my career and attend Ryerson University’s Performance Dance Program. It was at Ryerson that I first studied modern and contemporary dance. I furthered my training by attending the Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre, ProArteDanza, and Kenny Pearl’s Emerging Artist Summer Programs. Throughout my post secondary training I further developed my technical skills as a dancer but more importantly I discovered my passion and voice as an artist.
What training regimens do you follow?
MB: My training regimen involves a mix of contemporary and ballet professional classes. It also involves a combination of yoga, running, cycling, and climbing. Alongside all this the most important aspect of my continuous training is the time I devote to my personal practice of improvisation, flying low & passing through, and investigation.
Sierra Chin Sawdy: As a dancer I have always tried to expose myself to as many different training regimes as possible. I began my training in classical ballet, jazz, and tap and later developed an interest in modern dance. From there I was exposed to contemporary dance and all the different techniques within that world. Once I realized all the different training methods out there, I began to attend as many different workshops as I could. I often travel to different countries to train with choreographers and teachers that have created their own contemporary technique, in order to expand my dance vocabulary.
JG: My training regimens are a combination of explorative research that often involves human connectivity, sensorial qualities of moving, and impulse reactions/improvisation, as well as physical strength and technique. I like to stay in shape and maintain a strong technical form by conditioning and keeping up with modern, ballet, and contemporary technique while immersing myself in other projects and workshops that feed my curiosity and further develop my artistry.
KL: Since graduating from Ryerson I continue to train at various drop in facilities across Toronto including GMD, TDT, Dance Teq, Metro Movement, and Underground Dance Centre. I participate in modern, contemporary, ballet, improvisation and jazz classes. I have also participated in intensive programs including Transformations in Montreal as well as Heidi Strauss’ Adelheid Intensive. I have experienced a few major injuries in my career as a dancer and because of this I have become adamant about my cross training. I stay fairly active through weight training, pilates, yoga, cycling and barre classes. I have certainly noticed the benefits of strength training in my overall health but in my dancing as well. It is important to me to maintain a high level of activity throughout my day in order to feel balanced and centred.
What inspires you as a dance artist?
MB: I am first and foremost inspired by the friends I have danced with that are now spread around the world. As I work I am constantly connecting to them and the different inspirations I get from each one. It is linked to a strong aspect of memory and sensation. Another big inspiration is my experiences in exploring the world. A part of my practice involves being stimulated by the places I experience and people I meet while traveling and making connections to concepts I encounter in dance. Whether that be experiencing the vastness of space on the steppe in Mongolia or soaking in the layers of life and activity that happen as the sun sets on the main square in Marrakech.
SCS: I love going to see as many shows as possible. Whether it be dance or theatre, I am always inspired by watching performers that are so committed to their work and doing something they are passionate about. It constantly motivates me to continue in this field and reminds me why I love doing what I am doing. I find it especially inspiring to watch those that I admire as artists up on stage, sharing their talent with others. As an audience member I am able to observe what makes each performer unique and utilize those things when I am performing.
JG: As a dance artist, I am of course, inspired by art that challenges me to see and think differently, including music, literature, visual, dance. I am particularly drawn to art that is a response to our society and deals with the crisis of what it is to be human. On a more general scale, I am most inspired by people - what makes each person unique, the ways in which we think and feel, how different people lead different lives, how people react, think, and feel, and overall, the things in our lives that connect people to one another, no matter how many differences we may have. I am fascinated by the realities and struggles of being human - the ways in which our experiences develop us into who we are and shape the paths we choose to take. I love ideas and concepts that challenge my opinion of what it means to be human, and the entire realm of qualities, traits, and characteristics that make each individual inimitable to one another, and I love seeing this kind of human expression and conflict portrayed in dance.
KL: Over the past two years I have worked closely with seniors both through the Dancing with Parkinson’s Organization (DWP) as well as the Meighen Retirement Residence. As a dance artist, I am inspired by the beauty found in simplicity and articulation. This is demonstrated in these classes as there is a strong focus on increasing awareness of the body through movement and stillness. From this, I have further seen that movement is accessible to people of all abilities and ages. Dance is supposed to be freeing and should allow you to be your truest self with no judgment. That is what I hope to achieve for myself. As I grow as a dancer I am inspired by authentic and honest work that uses limitations as a way to discover endless possibilities in movement.
At what point did you feel you had come into your own, and you knew that you had to pursue this career path?
MB: In 2014 during a break in my training, a team of two friends and I took matters into our own hands to produce and perform a show in a gallery in Finland. We managed to create and deliver a performance to around 400 people from the community that reflected their culture and clearly reached them in a unique way. Producing and creating a dance work for the town of Kouvola, Finland, reaffirmed for me the value of generating innovative dance and delivering it in ways which broaden the impact of the sector. The creative autonomy this experience provided made me feel that I had come into my own. And engaging this incredible power and independence of being a dance artist made me realize that I needed to continue on this path.
JG: It is difficult for me to pin point a specific moment in time when I felt that I had to pursue dancing as a career. There have certainly been ups and downs, but there was never a time where I could imagine my life without dance. As I continued to train, make new discoveries, and grow as an artist, I only became more and more sure that this was something I had to do, because I would never feel like my true self without it. Although I am still in the beginning stages of my professional dance career and feel that I still have a lot to learn, the first time I felt I had come into my own as an artist was during my first year at Springboard Danse Montreal. It was an overwhelming experience, being surrounded by so many talented emerging and professional artists who came from all over the world. At first I was a bit intimidated, and therefore timid. The nature of the work I ended up performing was - at the time - completely out of my comfort zone. It quickly became a form of movement that I now find very natural to me. Because it was a quick creation process, I was forced to conquer my insecurities for the benefit of the piece, throwing myself into this new way of moving. This, combined with all of the artists around me who inspired me to push myself is why I consider my experience at Springboard a pivotal moment. It was an experience that helped me to learn how to accept my weaknesses and work on them while recognizing my strengths, stay open to new ideas, and to remain inquisitive. This new found confidence in my ability paired with admiration of my colleagues is what guided me to come into my own as an artist.
KL: The moment where I knew that I had to pursue this career path was when I performed with Bill Coleman, Marc Boivin, and Jimmy Coleman in Victoria, BC for a remount of his work Convoy PQ17. It was a Remembrance Day Performance at the University of Victoria, Farquhar Auditorium. For this work we collaborated with the Victoria Symphony Orchestra and the Victoria Philharmonic Choir. Working with these musical artists opened my eyes to the interdisciplinary approach to performance. This was my first professional job and I remember sitting on the stage after our dress rehearsal and saying to myself, “This is what I need to do”. I truly believe this is where I came into my own and saw what my future could hold. It was such a thrill to be working with esteemed artists and feel like I was apart of something special.
What are you most excited about in regards to working with Peggy?
MB: I have always admired Peggy’s work - how it keeps a connection to the past while still curiously exploring and being open into the future. I believe the program will allow me to enter a new phase of my development while becoming reconnected to dance here in Canada. I want an environment where I can be provoked in different ways and challenged to draw together the different methods I have for approaching dance.
JG: In regards to working with Peggy Baker Dance Projects, I am most excited to be immersed into a professional environment where I can make new discoveries with Peggy and her dancers. It is going to be a pleasure to share the space with Peggy, her professional company, and the other three Emerging Artists where we can all share exchanges of insight in our craft, and take away new qualities and concepts influenced by one another. I look forward to absorbing new perspectives on movement, artistry, collaboration, and creative process. I imagine that Peggy and her artists have a great deal of professional knowledge that will nurture my curiosity and help me progress into the seasoned artist I am aspiring to be.
KL: I am constantly intrigued by the quality and precision of Peggy’s work as a whole. As an audience member I am in awe of the power that every element of her work brings to a performance. Whether it be the movement, instruments, vocals or set design. I am drawn to Peggy’s keen eye and use of space, in conjunction with her dancers and vocalists. The beauty in simplicity is evident in her work. I am excited to be working alongside her and have an inside view of her creative process as a choreographer. I look forward to Peggy’s mentorship as I contribute my personal experiences and dive deeper into my artistry as a performer.
All four of these wonderful artists will work with Peggy and her company dancers in our 2018/19 season!