Member Spotlight

A monthly series where we shine the spotlight on one of our members.

March 2018
Q&A with Jessica McMann

Urban Shaman Gallery, Winnipeg, MB

Who is Jessica McMann in a sentence?
I am a queer Indigenous Cree/Sioux two-spirit musician, dancer, artist. 

How did you get involved in dance?
JM: I started dancing when I was in Grade 10.  My Mother brought me and my sister to a culture class in order to reconnect with our culture as we are adopted.  I fell in love with hoop dance as well as all the other powwow styles.  It was not until I was 21-ish that I started getting into Contemporary dance.  I attended a Raven Spirit Dance training in 2008 or 2009 and I have been working hard ever since.

 You are both a musician and dance artist - tell us a bit about your arts practice?
I am a classical musician, as well as a hoop dancer and contemporary dancer.  I teach quite a bit in schools in Calgary.  I teach powwow and hoop dance residencies and workshops, so that keeps me busy for 3 months of the year, and the summers I like to go on the powwow trail, and work.  I split my time between Vancouver and Calgary. I am currently working on creating my own music for my solo dance works. Last year before I started graduate school I played in two orchestras and a variety of chamber groups as well.

What informs the work you create?
JM: I am informed by Blackfoot and Cree language, queer, and Indigenous identity. The importance of languages, expression and how the musicality of the language can lend itself to movement are concepts I aim to explore.  I work with community-based performers to create larger works, as I believe that dance and music should be accessible and performed by all bodies and identities.  I push the boundaries of traditional powwow and hoop dance to create a contemporary art style of dance.

How would you describe your practice in 3 words?
JM: Relationality embodying indigeneity

What are you working on this season?
This season I am working on a project with my husband, a Kainai Artist and Animator.  This project is a full-length work that is based in research around Blackfoot ways of being. Nimihitowin! is a family/youth performance that gets programmed every year for a variety of events, and I am always excited to travel with it.  Aside from school, I am also working on a CD project as well. 

I am a Dance Centre member because…
JM: I love supporting the dance community, and I love the fact that The Dance Centre supports all levels of dancers, from all styles. 

February 2018 
Q&A with Oscar Nieto 


Tell us a bit about your career as a Flamenco dancer. 
I started studying dance in LA when I was 14, learning Mexican folk dances and then later Spanish dance, and eventually flamenco. I founded my troupe Mosaico de Danzas in ‘71 but after returning from my first visit to Spain in ‘74 with the ‘flamenco bug’, changed the name to Mozaico Flamenco. I started experimenting fusing flamenco music with Latin music and rhythms, and was one of the first to incorporate a conga player into my troupe. It’s funny when I look back­­­––how much flak I got for using a congero in a flamenco group. These days there’s no limit to what types of instruments are played in a Flamenco Group.

What kinds of classes do you offer the dance community? 
ON: I offer general classes from introduction to advanced and private coaching classes. I also teach cante classes in which flamenco dance students learn about the structure of the song forms in flamenco, and how to properly incorporate the dance movements to fit the flow of the songs. In flamenco dance, there is interplay between the guitarist, singer and dancer. When the dancer is leading, the music follows; when the singer is singing, everybody follows. However, it is much more complex than that. That’s why it takes so many years to master this art form!

What do you hope your students go away with after one of your classes?
ON: A better fundamental understanding of why flamenco is danced in a particular way, and that you don’t have to be a world-class dancer to interpret flamenco well; you can enjoy participating as an aficionado; in order to do that, students of flamenco music, song and dance must learn about the cante and rhythms.

How would you describe your teaching philosophy in 3 words?
Cognitive. Awareness. Learning.

If you weren’t in dance, what career path would you have chosen?
I can’t think of anything because dance has always been what I’ve wanted to do, even from a very young age.

I am a Dance Centre member because…
ON: It’s always been a place to go to for advice and help. When it was established in 1986, I had already been here 3 years and didn’t know of any place to go to for advice. The organization and the people involved were very open to the type of dance that I was doing. I never felt marginalized because I was doing what at that time was known as “ethnic dance.”

January 2018: Training Society of Vancouver (TSV)
Q&A with the TSV Board

Photo by Yvonne Chew

Tell us a bit about the Training Society of Vancouver?
You could go to our (newly revamped) website to read about TSV and our mission, but basically, we are a group of dancers that get together to plan and organize ongoing training opportunities for the contemporary dance community, run under the program ‘Working Class’. We do this with support from The Dance Centre. We love dance! 

How often does Working Class run and what can dancers expect?
Working Class is our main training program, running Mon/Wed/Fri from 10-11:30am at Scotiabank Dance Centre, and offers classes taught by a rotating roster of local dance artists. It’s $12 to drop-in and is open to emerging and professional dancers. Our doors are almost always open for public viewing. We also offer “special deliveries”, training opportunities that fall outside of our regular programming. These pop up at various times and days throughout the season. We also give out six training scholarships per season.

What is the role of TSV in the community?
We hope our program offers varied and financially accessible training opportunities for the Vancouver dance community and artists visiting the city. We work very hard to be inclusive and democratic in our programming, and to offer multiple training methods for the contemporary training body. We adjusted our mandate, which revolved around “contemporary dance training“,  to a focus a diversity of training for the contemporary body.

What’s TSV’s Mandate in three words? 
Body. Movement. Practice.

What are some exciting classes or masterclasses to look forward to this year?
So far this season, we have had numerous exciting partnerships. In November, we partnered with plastic orchid factory to present a week of Gaga Classes for both dancers and people. In February, we look forward to reigniting our partnership with DanceHouse for three master classes during their season performances! Because we try to remain flexible to opportunities, folks should stay tuned to our website for any upcoming opportunities we don’t yet know about. Many artists pass through Vancouver and we are always keen to facilitate a master class or series of classes whenever we can. Sometimes these pop up with a lot of advanced notice, other times less.

We are a Dance Centre member because...
It’s a vibrant hub for dance in Vancouver that operates a beautiful facility to run our classes and where we can be a part of and connect with the community.

December 2017: All That Jazz / Shine Dance Festival
Q&A with Tamara Thompson Levi

What is All That Jazz in a sentence?
All That Jazz is mostly Shine Dance Festival - events that educate and inspire the next generation of dancers AND, when time permits, dabbling in other random projects involving dance and dance education.

What is your role with the company?
TTL: Founder, director.

Tell us about your background in dance?
TTL: I’ve gone from competitive dancer, to professional performer and choreographer, to dance educator and event producer.  Select Credits: The Nutcracker w/ Alberta Ballet, Festival Cruise Line, New Balance, Calvin Klein, MAC Cosmetics, Toni & Guy, Charlottetown Festival, Music Videos, TV & Film, Gaga Dancers, Capilano University Musical Theatre Faculty. 

What was the inspiration for creating the company?
TTL: To provide a holistic and educational experience for young dancers focused on personal and artistic development as well as community.

Describe your company in 3 words:
TTL: Progressive. Inclusive. Community.

What projects do you have coming up this season?
TTL: Our 13th season of annual Shine Dance Festival events happens this spring with events in North Vancouver, Mission, Vernon and Penticton.  We also have some new training based programs in the works for fall of 2018.

I’m a Dance Centre member because…
TTL: It is the perfect place to connect with the dance community, to see, hear and feel its pulse and be part of its continued evolution.

October 2017: Mutable Subject
Q&A with Deanna Peters  

Photo by Yvonne Chew

Who is Deanna Peter/Mutable Subject in a sentence?
It's all dance.

What motivated you to start Mutable Subject?
I needed a moniker for the shows and events I'd been self- and co-producing since early on in my career. I also like having a few different nicknames. Blare is another one of them. And, Deanna Peters Dance never sounded right.

What inspires the dance work you create?
Moving, movement, people, bodies, learning what bodies can do, experiencing my body moving, nature, things, abstraction, psychedelia, theory, music.

Describe your company in 3 words:
Not a company.

What projects do you have coming up this season?
As winner of the Iris Garland Emerging Choreographer Award, with fellow performers Justine A. Chambers and Kim Sato, I'm presenting META at Scotiabank Dance Centre Oct 27+28 – my first single-billed show in Vancouver! There will be pre-shows and socials too. I'm collaborating with some intensely fabulous and skilled artists and getting a lot of help from other friends/colleagues.

After META, I'm co-producing DIY@DIV with Kevin Fraser, Jeanette Kotowich, Carolina Bergonzoni and Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg, along with help from the rest of the crew at Left of Main. DIY@DIV is a series of shows and events running alongside Dance In Vancouver, Nov 22-26, featuring new works by Eric Cheung (aka Squidjit), Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg, Jennifer McLeish-Lewis, Joshua Ongcol, plastic orchid factory, prOphecy sun + Luciana Freire D'Anunciação, Daisy Thompson and Lexi Vajda. 

In 2018, I'll be dancing in Ziyian Kwan's newest work, for performances at the Vancouver International Dance Festival.

If you weren’t in the arts, what career path would you have chosen?
Architect, after a brief college career in highjump.

I am a Dance Centre member because…
They provide programs, services and access to resources that I need to survive as a dance artist.

September 2017: Weightless Body Confidence Coaching
Q&A with Alicia Putinski

Tell us a bit about your company Weightless.
AP: Weightless provides life coaching support to dancers and athletes who desire to improve their sense of body image, find balance with food, strengthen their mind-body connection, and manage challenging emotions. Weightless was born as a result of my journey overcoming body confidence issues, disordered eating, and developing a unique holistic approach to wellness for active individuals.

What motivated you to start Weightless?
AP: I felt inspired to start Weightless due to my own experience, and further by observing how common body confidence issues are. As a former dancer, and later working as a personal trainer, I felt compelled to provide support to dancers and athletes so that more people can find inner peace and strong connection to self.

What is your connection to dance?
AP: At the age of 4, I began dancing and continued on this path for 14 years. Ballet, jazz and tap were my primary disciplines. Nothing brought me more joy than being on stage in a beautiful sense of flow.

What do your hope your clients gain through coaching?
AP: My brave clients connect with me because they feel disconnected to themselves. I desire to help them discover why, let go of issues from the past that hold them back, strengthen their confidence, help them live with more ease, and long term acquire skills to apply ongoing self care to their daily lives allowing them to self heal throughout their journeys.

How would you describe your coaching philosophy in 3 words?
AP: Open, compassionate, unique.

Do you have any seminars or workshops coming up this Fall?
AP: Yes! I am excited to be holding a workshop called “Empowered Self Care”. We will be discussing how daily self care from an emotional and spiritual perspective plays a roll in our physical health, while bringing to light ways to practice this.

I am a Dance Centre member because…
AP: Dance is very close to my heart and it’s an honour to connect with the dance community. I feel it’s important for communities of dancers and athletes to know that they can reach out to someone if they find themselves feeling disconnected in their bodies. 


August 2017:
Q&A with AE Wild

Photo by Chris Randle

Tell us a bit about your career in dance.  
I grew up in Calgary, where my first tumbling, tap and ballet classes began to spark a fire in me for the performing arts! Training in almost every style growing up, hip-hop/street styles soon became a favourite genre for me - transforming into my now profession today! I’ve been lucky enough to work with some big companies such as: The Harlem Globetrotters, SO LOKI, Harbour Dance Centre, Two Four Seven Co, SOULdiers co. and can’t wait for what the future holds.

What kinds of classes do you offer the dance community?
AEW: Currently, I offer classes throughout Vancouver and Victoria ranging from beginner to advanced. Whether it be teaching your little one to move and groove, or enjoying a fun workout, I teach everything from drop-in classes to year-round/sessional lessons. (Styles ranging from grooving/ hip-hop, jazz and street jazz)

What do you hope your students go away with after one of your classes?
My goal is that every dancer has a fun, enjoyable, stress-free dance class, first and foremost. Whether it be a basics class, or an advanced choreography class, I want everybody to feel as though they are learning at the correct level/pace. With the right learning environment, you should leave each class with a new sense of coordination and musicality, all the  while feeling more confident on the dance floor!

How would you describe your teaching philosophy in 3 words?
AEW: Outgoing. Upbeat. Relatable

What do you have planned for next season?
AEW: For the next dance season, I am excited to continue offering classes throughout BC, and training among the industries top professionals. From holding beginner adult hip-hop drop-ins to choreographing for projects, my hands will be full with dance this year – there’s no doubt about that!

If you weren’t in dance or the arts, what career path would you have chosen?
f I wasn't in the dance industry I think I would probably be a gymnast or a nail artist! Random, but I think I would need a profession that is either artistic in some way or adrenaline filled.

I am a Dance Centre member because…
The Dance Centre is an amazing hub for all things movement and dance resources. From traveling companies and shows, to workshops, master classes and programs - they offer it all in a great location!


July 2017: Les Productions Figlio
Q&A with Serge Bennathan

Photo by Sylvain Senez

Who is Serge Bennathan in a sentence?
Tall, long dark hair, athletic, with a light French accent.... (but in all seriousness, I am an artisan, a choreographer, painter, writer).

What set you on your path to have a career as a choreographer?
My father, a military man that did not want his son to play in the street. I chose dance.

What inspires the work you create?
I go within myself, so life

Describe your company in three words:

What’s coming up for you this season?
The first sketch of Contes Cruels at the Dancing on the Edge Festival on July 13th and 15th. The full work will be presented at the Firehall Theatre end of May 2018. Right now, I am also in creation for Dance Deck presented the 5th and 6th of August. Then, I will go to paint and write, maybe work in Opera which I love also.

If you weren’t in dance or the arts, what career path would you have taken?
The question never came to my mind. I am doing what I am supposed to do.  Dance saved me.

You choose to be a Dance Centre Member because.
Because it is a home for the art of dance.


June 2017
Q&A with Monica Shah
Facebook page

Photo by Ken Dobb

Who is Monica Shah in a sentence?
MS: I am a dancer and emerging choreographer who performs within both classical and contemporary Indian styles; in my other life, I am a school psychologist who supports students with special needs in elementary and secondary settings.

Tell us about your path into your parallel career in dance.
Dance has always been a central part of my life, and one that I couldn’t imagine living without.  At one point, I thought I had to choose between my two worlds of dance and psychology. Only in the past few years have I fully stepped into this parallel career path, and now I am pursuing both of my passions in a busy but incredibly fulfilling life.

What inspires the work you create?
MS: While I am committed to refining and deepening my Bharatanatyam practice, I am also drawn to explore a contemporary aesthetic that is a distinct and unique expression of my training. Through mining the classical vocabulary, the movements evolve into those that are authentic and personal to me. This process inspires me to see what I know in a different light.

Describe your work in three words:
Personal. Evolving. Intuitive.

What plans do you have in the coming months?
MS: In June, I’m presenting an improvised work with cellist Clara Shandler for 12 Minutes Max, and a Bharatanatyam ensemble piece for Mandala Arts and Culture. Following that, is the Vancouver premiere of my Indian contemporary solo Blessed Unrest choreographed by Natasha Bakht at Dancing on the Edge, which will be presented later in November for Ottawa Dance Directive’s Series Dance 10, in a shared performance with Bakht. As part of that showcase, I will also premiere my first choreographed Indian contemporary dance solo, being developed in Moberly's Summer Studio Exchange program. 

Why do you do what you do?
MS: Dance brings me a joy like nothing else can.  It fills my soul, excites and inspires me, and makes me feel connected and whole. My reason for pursuing dance and psychology is the same – they are both a part of who I am and what I have to contribute. Abandoning either one would be like losing a piece of myself. Though life can feel hectic at times, I continue to do what I do because it gives me a sense of fulfillment.

You are a Dance Centre member because...
MS: It provides a sense of connection, community, and support in Vancouver’s diverse dance world.  Plus, I get to make use of beautiful studios at an affordable rate!


May 2017: Nia Technique
Q&A with Jasjit Rai, Nia Practitioner

What is Nia?
Nia is a practice that blends dance styles (modern, jazz, Duncan) with the energy of the healing and martial arts. Practiced to a range of music, it is expressive and joyous. Its soft impact approach allows participants to be barefoot and uses a variety of steps, stances, and whole body movement. 

What inspired you to become a Nia practitioner?
I found Nia at a time when I felt a strong urge to “get out of my head”. It was as if an inner voice was telling me to expand the range of my life experience. I had also started a business at the time and felt a need to release stress, strengthen my body, and connect with others. I went into my first class as a curious student and walked out knowing I needed to teach and share this powerful practice after feeling all that it allowed me to feel and express. It was one of those life altering moments. It’s now been 16 years of teaching.

What do you hope your students take away from your classes?
Most importantly, I hope my students experience a deeper love of their bodies, movement, and self-expression. It is so healing for us to have a space where we can be present to ourselves, access the deep reservoir of energy and wisdom within us, and expand our personal expression. 

How would you describe your teaching philosophy in three words?
Presence, feeling, expression.

Do you have any special events coming up?
I am leading a 4 hour Nia playshop on May 7, 2017 titled, “Deepening Intimacy Flowing Energy”. People can learn about it at

If you hadn’t come across Nia or other dance forms, what career path would you have taken?
I would’ve likely pursued art and/or design.

You are a Dance Centre member because…
… because I believe in the power of dance, and am grateful that Vancouver has a space for dance professionals and newcomers alike, and appreciate the practical support such as studio rentals and exposure.


April 2017: WAREHAUS dance collective
Q&A with Co-Artistic Directors Akeisha de Baat and Megan Hunter

Photo by Santiago de Hoyos

Who are the members of WAREHAUS dance collective? 
WAREHAUS dance collective is Co-Artistic Directed by Akeisha de Baat and Megan Hunter. 

When and why did you decide to start a collective? 
Megan and I, plus former collective member Sofija Polovina, decided to keep our momentum going post graduation from SFU, and got in the studio and began creating.  We were eager to keep going and didn’t want to wait for the opportunities to approach us.

What inspires the work you create?
We are committed to facilitating interdisciplinary projects that can connect artists in different stages of their career. We are passionate about working in process and experimenting with the blending of artistic backgrounds and infusing traditional movement with a contemporary aesthetic. Our vision is to create thoughtful, relevant works to share with different communities both locally and abroad. 

What plans do you have coming up this season? 
This June, WAREHAUS is excited to be heading to Toronto to perform Warp and Weft, choreographed by Vanessa Goodman, at the New Blue Emerging Dance Festival! 

Describe your work in three words:
Expansive, Feminine, and Personal 

If you weren’t in dance or the arts, what career path would you have taken? 
I would most likely have a career in physio therapy or health.
MH: I’m passionate about food and wine, so I would most likely be a chef or sommelier or run a B&B or a cafe somewhere with less rain. 

You are a Dance Centre member because…
… because of all of the access and benefits we receive from being a member. The Small Company Subsidy program allows us work in one of the most beautiful studios in the city at a rate we can afford. We are very grateful for programs like these and like 12mm,  that facilitate emerging artists making work.  


March 2017
Q&A with Olivia C Davies‚Äč

Photo by David C Wong

You work as an independent dance artist, choreographer and collaborator. Can you tell us about your recent collaboration with the visual artist Anne Riley as part of your DanceLab residency? 
OCD: Make space in your life to receive the gifts bestowed upon you. Let go of what no longer serves you. Give back what you can. Working with Anne gave me the chance to look at the way I create from a whole new angle. Together we exchanged stories, poems, ideas, and often we found our conversations circling back to the role of artists in society. An important question came up, does your art save lives? 

What inspires the work you create?
As choreographers, I believe we are transformers of space, place, and time. We are the storytellers of our existence. By sharing stories of transformation, I hope that others may be inspired to reflect on their own personal narratives and be the change they want to see in the world. To me, art is the antidote to the terror that threatens to overtake my Spirit when I pay attention to the sadness and suffering in the world around me.

What plans do you have coming up this season?
OCD: This March, I am co-facilitating Home: Our Way women's writing and movement circles with Sahtu/Dene storyteller Rosemary Georgeson at the Firehall Arts Centre. My piece Crow's Nest and Other Places She's Gone premieres May 7 at the Vancity Culture Lab, as a Dance All Sorts presentation, with an additional show, May 18 at the Evergreen Cultural Centre, Coquitlam. 
Greed/REsolve, a collaboration with Circadia Indigena Aboriginal Arts Collective, will be presented by Vancouver's Queer Arts Festival in June and we expect to expand the production into a dance film titled "Consequence" with youth engagement for 2018.

Describe your work in three words.
Conscious. Meditative. Spell-binding.

If you weren’t in dance or the arts, what career path would you have taken?
OCD: I would have followed my childhood dream of becoming a very important Executive Assistant.

You are a Dance Centre member because… is a fascinating and rich place to call home away from home where dreams becomes reality.

February 2017: OURO Collective
Q&A with members of OURO Collective


Photo by Teppei Tanabe

Who are the members of OURO Collective? 
OC: Cristina Bucci, Maiko Miyauchi, Rina Pellerin, Dean Placzek, Mark Siller, Antonio Somera (when he is in town), and our newest member Braden Penno.

Why did you decide to form a collective?
What started out as a weekly practice between friends, intended to exchange dance styles and influences, became the backbone of our early rehearsals. We realized through these practices that we all shared very open minds when it came to creating from various sources and blending different styles of dance. We wanted to create a positive working environment where all the artists would contribute equally to the work that was being produced and decided to create a collective that would foster that vision.

What inspires the work you create?
We are inspired by each other and each other’s respective dance styles (hip hop, breaking, waacking and contemporary). Engaging with artists from various mediums has also expanded our creative process and has given us new tools to play with for our own creation. Other inspirations for our work has come from photography, visual arts, music, video games, Buddhism, personal experiences and a response to what is happening in our environment.

Describe OURO Collective in 3 words?
Patient, weird, accessible

What are you working on this season?
We are currently working on creating our first full length work, yet to be titled. The new work is giving us the opportunity to expand ideas and movement vocabulary that we have been investigating over the past two years as a collective. The piece will premiere on May 25-26 at New Works @ Night at the Orpheum Annex and will also tour to Japan in July 2017!

If you weren’t in dance or the arts, what other career path would you have taken?
All of us agreed it would be something that would still stimulate our need to be creative and connect and contribute to our community. Some careers that came up: social worker, RMT, game/graphic designer, naturopathic doctor and nutritionist (which one of our members works as when not dancing).

You choose to be a dance centre member because
To become part of a larger arts community and connect with new artists and audiences.

January 2017: Tango Moderna
Q&A with Dan Falk


Tell us a bit about Tango Moderna and the kinds of classes you offer?
We specialize in Argentine Tango - a modern form which emphasizes improvisation and creativity. On Tuesdays we teach group lessons and hold private lessons on Sundays. 

How did you get involved in Argentine Tango?
I began in 2003 along with other dances, mostly Latin. It wasn't until five years later, living in Buenos Aires, Argentina for half a year that I decided to dedicate all of my attention to Argentine Tango.

What draws you to this form of dance?
It's the freedom of and challenge from the dance's improvisation that draws me in, particularly a style referred to as Tango Nuevo, a modern style of Argentine Tango. 

What do you hope your students experience in your classes?
We hope students become just as addicted to Argentine Tango as we have.

How would you describe your classes in three words?
Relaxed, creative & well-explained

If you weren't in dance or the arts, what career path would you have taken?
DF: Besides being an instructor of Argentine Tango, I am also an engineer.

You choose to be a Dance Centre member because...
DF: The Dance Centre is not only a place to rent out studio space; they also support their members through advertising, providing resources, and integrating all their members into a community.