Michael J. Moore Photography (Courtesy Stacey Tookey)
To say that three-time-Emmy-nominated choreographer and dancer Stacey Tookey is in demand is an understatement. One glance at her resumé says it all: She's worked with artists like Celine Dion, Justin Timberlake, and Michael Bublé; performed with R.A.W. (Mia Michaels' dance company), Parsons Dance Project, and Ballet British Columbia; choreographed viral music videos like Christina Perri's "Jar of Hearts" and Ingrid Michaelson's recent "Celebrate"; presented full-length works for Los Angeles Ballet and Cincinnati Ballet; and formed her own contemporary company, STILL MOTION. She's currently marking her 10th season choreographing for and judging on "So You Think You Can Dance," which is where she racked up those Emmy noms.
An Alberta, Canada, native, Tookey started dancing at her mother's studio at the age of 3. As a teen, she traveled all over as a competition dancer, then studied with Ballet British Columbia in Vancouver before relocating to NYC.
These days, she's the inspiring teacher everyone wants to learn from. Tookey is a beloved fixture on the comp circuit (she's on faculty at Nuvo Dance Competition), and has taught all over the world. Last year, she also founded Camp Protegé, a week-long dance mentorship intensive in Canada.
Read on for her advice to her younger self!
Stacey Tookey as a young dancer. (Courtesy Tookey)
I hope you're ready for an incredible journey. It'll have unexpected highs and dark lows, but it'll also be filled with so much passion, inspiration, and dedication. Your path will not be a straight one to the top—it'll be a meandering, always-changing labyrinth, driven by curiosity. Enjoy every moment. Don't be in such a hurry. The universe will present opportunities when you're ready. Maybe a little "growing time" is all you need to give you the confidence to make your dreams come true.
With your non-stop work ethic and love for what you do, you're accumulating more life skills than you know, and all of this will help you later on. Don't let obstacles define you. Let them empower and challenge you. These roadblocks will actually show you who you are as an artist and a human. You'll get through them and will appreciate and cherish what they've taught you. Trust your gut. You have very good intuition and need to listen to your dreams and desires. You can have them all!
Don't wait for someone else to notice you. Make your voice heard through your vulnerability, authenticity, and availability in the classroom or rehearsal space. Love the body you were given, because it can do amazing things. And please take care of it. Give yourself rest when you need it. You won't fall behind, I promise.
Stop comparing yourself to others. You are a unique artist with your own set of gifts. Let competition drive you, not diminish you. The stage is very big, and there's space for everyone. You'll realize this one day. Go give your Mom a HUGE hug and a big THANK YOU for being your dedicated teacher and training you with such expertise and care. Tell both of your parents how grateful you are for their constant love and support. Your dreams will come true with the help of their undying belief in you.
Deep down you know that dancing is what makes you feel the most alive. It fills you and drives you and gives you wings to fly. You're absolutely right—now fly!
I'm so proud of you.
P.S. Try not to worry too much about being Canadian. You'll get your work visa and, eventually, your green card. :)