Choreographer's Collage: Stacey Tookey

Since leaving her hometown of Edmonton, Alberta, at 19, Stacey Tookey has become one of the commercial world’s biggest-name choreographers. Her work on “So You Think You Can Dance” has earned three Emmy nominations for outstanding choreography, and her company, Still Motion, presented her full-length work, Moments Defined, in NYC and L.A. this summer.

Members of Still Motion in Tookey's Moments Defined (photo by Bill Herbert, courtesy Stacey Tookey)

“In Moments Defined, there’s a New York street scene that’s up-tempo—a really happy, feel-good part of the work. It was inspired by the first time I arrived in NYC. The city was a place where, all of a sudden, I just felt alive. It was a feeling of true happiness and true belonging.”

“I often use apps like SoundCloud to find new music. But I also love getting recommendations. For example, a friend first told me about Christina Perri, who, at the time, was still a waitress. I heard her song ‘Jar of Hearts’ and immediately fell in love with it. I took it to the ‘SYTYCD’ people, and they said they needed a produced copy. I went back to Christina, who then asked her manager to produce it. Finally, we got to use it on the show, and the song was a hit. A couple of days later, she was flown to NYC and basically had her choice of record labels!”

Rehearsing Be Still with Los Angeles Ballet's Allyssa Bross and Zheng Hua Li (photo by Erich Koyama, courtesy L.A. Ballet)

“I love collaborating with composers. I’ve worked with Matthew Banks many times—for Moments Defined and my pieces for Los Angeles Ballet and Cincinnati Ballet. I love being able to speak to him about exactly what I want or to ask if he can go in another direction. He also comes in to watch the rehearsal process and creates from there.”

“I was walking down a street in NYC, and I started to think about the stories behind everyone I passed—a businessman, girls out shopping, a homeless man—and the diversity of our culture. That’s how Mad World was born. I thought, ‘What if there were a twist? What if two people knew one another growing up, but their lives took completely different journeys, and then they had an accidental meeting?’ I wanted to bring up that shocking, twisted, sad thing about reality.”

“Pina Bausch is a true visionary. Her work inspires me, and she embodies everything I want to become as a choreographer. Crystal Pite is also just mind-blowing. She was in Ballet BC when I joined the company as an apprentice, and since then, I’ve looked up to her as a mentor. I always say, You aren’t the person you are without the people you look up to.”

Kathryn McCormick and Robert Roldan in Heaven is a Place on Earth (photo by Mathieu Young, courtesy FOX)

“The inspiration for my piece Heaven is a Place on Earth came from seeing families making huge sacrifices for the military. The dance centered on a woman leaving for war. At the time, so many people were dealing with those sacrifices, and their stories really affected me. On the show, Kathryn McCormick and Robert Roldan were able to take the piece to such a real place emotionally.”

“Kathryn McCormick is my muse. I fell in love working with her on ‘So You Think’ and she’s the one dancer I always go to for any project. She invests her whole soul in everything she takes on.”

“When I look at myself as a teacher or a choreographer, I see that it all comes from my mother. She’s one of the most hard-working, passionate people I’ve ever met. She’s had her studio, Shelley’s Dance Company, for more than 45 years and has created so many amazing dancers. Still, she goes in every day and puts her heart and soul into her work. I’m not sure if I have the strength to do what she has done. I’m the person I am today because of her.”

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