Canadian Invasion

Canadian Dance Company (photo courtesy Break the Floor Productions)

A few years ago, Canadian dancers and schools started making big waves at competitions and conventions across the U.S. Fast-forward to the 2014 Dance Awards Nationals in NYC: Roughly one-third of the Best Dancer finalists were from Canadian studios, and about half of the highest-scoring group routines came from Canada. The Studio of the Year winner? Elite Danceworx—also from Canada.

The dedicated dancers and teachers north of our border are becoming a major force on the U.S. comp circuit. Here are just a few of the studios and dancers to watch for at your next regional or national event.


Joanne Chapman School of Dance

Location: Brampton, Ontario

Number of students: 600

Why we’re obsessed: This studio is practically unbeatable when it comes to tight, ultra-clean group routines. Joanne Chapman was the first-ever Studio of the Year winner at The Dance Awards (in 2011), and repeatedly takes home top titles in all styles at competitions, including Hall of Fame Dance Challenge. The studio’s dancers are well rounded and versatile, transitioning easily from a precision-based tap routine to lyrical pieces. Keep an eye on Advanced Company dancers, including Brianna Moretti, Kyanna Palmer, Victoria DeBartolo, Sabrina Sinopoli and Bailey Woodwark—and 10-year-old Jezzaya Slack.

Noteworthy alums: Blake McGrath (L.A.-based commercial dancer and former Dance Spirit cover star); commercial dancer Amanda Cleghorn

Shelley's Dance Company (photo by GTFX Photography, courtesy Shelley's Dance Company)

Shelley’s Dance Company

Location: Edmonton, Alberta

Number of students: 250

Why we’re obsessed: Shelley’s Dance Company competes on a big scale, but the studio atmosphere is completely family-oriented. Studio owner Shelley Tookey says her priority is making sure her dancers are practicing good sportsmanship, teamwork and technique—that they’re training for their futures, not just a competition performance. This past season, the studio’s Advanced Large Group Open line routine, Lil’ Red, took home first overall almost every time it hit the stage, winning big at Dance Power and Standing Ovation Dance Festival events. Be sure to watch out for senior Kyra Van Veen—she’s on the rise.

Noteworthy alums: Still Motion director and “So You Think You Can Dance” choreographer Stacey Tookey

BOLD Dance Company

Location: Mississauga, Ontario

Why we’re obsessed: The dancers at BOLD get the best of both worlds: awesome regular teachers and choreographers who consistently win top honors for their work, plus guest choreographers—like Tokyo, Blake McGrath and Rodrigo Basurto—who teach master classes and set pieces for the company. The routines BOLD performs are super-stylized (think: lots of jutting hips, extra-low lunges and angular shapes), and their focus remains on the quality of movement—never the tricks. Keep an eye out for Taylor McLennan, Emilie Richer, Sofia Tramonte, Amanda Bruce, Julianna Macedo, Emily Melo, Krista Mantiega and Justine Sanker, all standout soloists.

Noteworthy alum: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s Candace Jarvis

Elite Danceworx

Location: Markham, Ontario

Number of students: 325

Why we’re obsessed: Elite Danceworx is just so good. The studio’s routines are clean, its dancers are trained in Vaganova technique, and its performers avoid forced, over-the-top facial expressions. Led by Dawn Rappitt, the studio also boasts a major roster of boys who are going places, including Julian Elia (the Teen Male Best Dancer at this year’s Dance Awards in NYC), Ty Forhan (who’s already performed in the Toronto production of Billy Elliot) and Findlay McConnell (who won Junior Male Best Dancer at The Dance Awards this year).

Noteworthy alums: Shaping Sound Dance Company’s Joey Arrigo; Melanie Mah, who’s appeared on “The X Factor”

Canadian Dance Company

Location: Oakville, Ontario

Number of students: 800

Why we’re obsessed: CDC kids are well-rounded across the board, and they don’t shy away from tap at competitions—a rarity these days. When it comes to training, CDC sticks to the oh-so-important basics, requiring students to spend hours each week honing their technique in a regimented program. The family-run studio, led by Allain and Dawn Lupien, turns out dancers with top-notch facility and excellent ballet technique. There’s also a big “we are family” mindset at CDC, which translates to kind students with great attitudes. Our eyes are on senior dancers Isaac Lupien and Devon Brown, teen Jessy Lipke, and minis Emily Roman and Isabella Baldino.

Noteworthy alums: Lar Lubovitch Dance Company’s Attila Joey Csiki; Noah Long, a former second soloist and current guest artist with The National Ballet of Canada

Canadian Dance Unit

Location: Bolton, Ontario

Number of students: 500

Why we’re obsessed: Formerly named JCSOD, Canadian Dance Unit’s motto is “Tomorrow’s dreams begin today,” and studio directors Frank and Melissa Giorgio do everything they can to make that a reality for their dancers. Ballet training

is paramount here; dancers follow the demanding Royal Academy of Dance

syllabus. The Giorgios also stress the importance of self-confidence, musicality and total body awareness, and the studio regularly invites guest choreographers—like Marty Kudelka, Chaz Buzan, Nick Lazzarini and Shannon Mather—to create competition routines. Canadian Dance Unit was named Studio of the Year at the 2013 Dance Awards, and you won’t be able to take your eyes off of Nationals title winner Julian Lombardi—one of CDU’s many promising dancers.

Noteworthy dancers: Current student Victoria Baldesarra, who plays Michelle on the Canadian TV show “The Next Step”

Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal’s Céline Cassone and Marcio Vinicius Paulino Silveira in Zero In On (photo by Leda & St. Jacques, courtesy BJM)

Company Life in Canada

Dreaming of a contract with a fierce contemporary dance company? The dance world just across the northern border is thriving, well-funded and—unlike the scene in Europe—mostly English-speaking. Stacey Tookey and Laurieann Gibson both hail from Canada, and American powerhouses Peter Chu and Cindy Salgado have found huge success dancing for Canadian companies. Want to follow in their footsteps? Here are a few top contemporary companies to consider.

Kidd Pivot: Although choreographer Crystal Pite formed her company more than a decade ago, she and her dancers have exploded on the dance scene recently. Pite has made a name for herself choreographing for U.S. companies, including Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet. Kidd Pivot’s modern and contemporary works are athletic, experimental and hugely entertaining.

Ballet BC: Calling all contemporary ballerinas! This company in Vancouver, British Columbia, regularly brings in fresh choreographers like Jorma Elo and Aszure Barton, and also performs classics by William Forsythe and George Balanchine. Ballet BC tours throughout the year, in addition to doing tons of community outreach.

Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal (BJM): BJM’s repertoire—which includes work by choreographers like Benjamin Millepied and Barak Marshall—is chic, sleek and effortlessly cool. Think joining a company means giving up your unique personality? Not in this group, where company members’ strengths and quirks are praised and highlighted. BJM’s artistic director, Louis Robitaille, even describes the company as a “research laboratory.”

RUBBERBANDance Group: This Montreal-based modern company was formed in 2002 by Victor Quijada. It may be small—there are only two permanent members—but it performs in a big way. RUBBERBANDance is known for presenting pieces enhanced by multimedia (like film projections and special lighting designs). Quijada’s choreography seamlessly blends ballet, hip hop and modern dance.

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