Archive | March, 2013


18 Mar

This week’s Dancer/Choreographer feature goes to Stef Williams. Hard work, determination, and drive are what make this Toronto native a growing success in the entertainment industry. Stefanie’s professional dance career started in South Florida with the NFL’s Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders. Her passion and ambition quickly took her to new heights not only in dance, but also in the commercial industry. She has worked with companies like VISA, MAC Cosmetics, ITT Tech and SoBe Fit Magazine.

In 2011, she was nominated “Ambassador of the Year” for The Dance For Life Foundation: “bringing together our artistic community onto a new platform for dancers to reach out and give back”. She also served on the adjudicator panel for the 2011 Toronto Argonaut Cheerleader Auditions where she shared her knowledge, expertise and thereafter choreography.

Stefanie currently resides in South Florida where she continues to pursue her professional dance career. Her recent credits include performing for FloRida, Pitbull’s 2013 New Years Eve concert, as well as two major Latin awards shows; Premios Juventud and Premios Lo Nuestro where she performed for artists Belinda, Elvis Crespo and Pitbull.

In the future Stefanie is looking to develop outreach programs to support youth in the arts and entertainment. She believes that with hard work, dedication, and perseverance you can achieve anything!

Bio provided by Stef

Stef Williams Toronto Dancer

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Check out what Stef had to say in this week’s feature…

Nikki: Do you remember the first time you started dancing?

Stef: My mom enrolled me in my first ballet class when I was about 5 or 6 and it only lasted about two years. My first memory of falling in love with dance was when I watched an American Music Awards performance by Janet Jackson. I remember looking at the screen in awe and thinking “I wanna do that!” From then on I was obsessed with teaching myself the choreography from MJ and Janet music videos.

Nikki: Do you remember the first song you choreographed to? (Or your earliest memory)

Stef: I’ve always been a fan of Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson. In high school we had this lip-syncing/dancing contest and my friend and I did a medley of MJ songs. I believe we did Smooth Criminal, Billy Jean and Beat It. Definitely good times and great memories.

Nikki: Your personal advice for dancers when it comes to free styling?

Stef: In my earlier years I use to be terrified of free styling because I was still discovering myself as a dancer. However, as time went on my confidence grew by taking multiple dance classes, attending auditions and more importantly practicing on my own. Free styling is all about allowing the music to take over your body, letting go, and knowing that it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks. Taking a wide variety of classes from different genres really helps with your dance vocabulary. Toronto has so much to offer as far as variety, so take advantage of that!

Nikki: Getting in the zone to choreograph, what does it take for you?

Stef: I feel that I am still growing as a choreographer, but I have been fortunate enough to choreograph for several projects. The first thing I do when I have to choreograph is play the song, close my eyes, and I begin to formulate the movements in my head. Sometimes I also allow myself to freestyle to the song and I pull certain movements from that. There are times when I hit roadblocks and I have to take a break before re-visiting it. Choreography is a process and I’ve learned to be patient with myself because I am a bit of a perfectionist.

Nikki: Who are some of your biggest influences in the Dance industry?

Stef: When I was growing up I looked up to Tina Landon of course because she choreographed for Janet Jackson at the time. Locally, Luther Brown and Jae Blaze heavily influenced me because their classes were some of the first ones I took outside of regular studio dancing. They also helped to pave the way for up and coming Toronto dancers and have managed to make a name for themselves in the industry. There are so many dancers and choreographers that I look up to: Mia Michaels, Sheryl Murakami, Sean Bankhead, Chuck Maldonado, Luam, Gigi Torres…the list can go on forever!

Nikki: Name a Toronto Choreographer you enjoy working with and why?

Stef: There are quite a few talented choreographers in Toronto and it would be very difficult to narrow it down to just one. A few that stand out to me are Scott Fordham, Hollywood Jade, Tazz, and Latoya Robinson. All of these individuals have influenced me in some way or another and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work with them. Toronto choreographers bring diversity to the table and not just the typical industry material you see on television. I enjoyed working with each person because they helped me to grow and develop in a variety of genres from jazz funk to burlesque to dancehall.

Nikki: Name one of your favorite artists to work with and why? (It does not have to be a pop star. Any type of artist that a Dancer would work with i.e.; another Dancer, Choreographer, Musician etc.)

Stef: This is another tough question because I’ve worked with so many great artists. To me great artists are those that stay grounded and continue to pursue greatness despite their current successes. They take the time to rehearse so that their performance isn’t just great, but amazing. I really enjoy working with Pitbull because he is humble, takes the time to rehearse and understand staging and the movement throughout his performance. His energy on stage is undeniable and that’s what makes him a great performer.

Nikki: Qualities you believe Toronto Dancers possess?

Stef: I’ve had the opportunity to work with many talented individuals in different parts of the world. I feel that Toronto dancers are very passionate and hard-working. Believe it or not we have built up a great reputation for ourselves. Whenever I tell someone where I’m from they get excited because they know that great talent keeps coming out of our city.

Nikki: Any upcoming projects, shows or classes you would like to share with T.D.O.T. ?

Stef: Currently Miami is in the middle of a huge event called the Winter Music Conference. I’ll be working some of the events doing promo work as well as dancing. I also have a few projects in the works for late March and April, but you’ll have to wait and see what those are 😉

Nikki: Any advice for emerging dancers and choreographers working/training in Toronto?

Stef: There is always room for improvement so get your butt into classes whenever you have a chance. Versatility is key in this industry so find the areas that you need to work on and take classes to improve. Stay humble and maintain a professional work ethic (e.g. arrive to rehearsals ON TIME, respond to your emails/txt msgs promptly etc.) Remember that rejection is a part of the industry so you cannot dwell on things that you cannot control. Lastly, know your worth! Make sure you do your research, read before signing contracts and know the terms before saying yes to a job.



Stef Williams Toronto Dancers


4 Mar

This week’s Dancer/Choreographer shout out goes to Monika Volkmar. Monika began dancing at age 11 at the Brandon School of Dance, in Brandon, Manitoba, training predominantly in ballet, jazz and modern dance. She has trained at such prestigious schools as The Banff Center for the Arts, the Winnipeg School of Contemporary Dancers, and Ryerson University’s dance program, where she has had the opportunity to train and perform with internationally renound teachers and choreographers.

While working towards her BFA in dance at Ryerson, in Toronto, Monika became certified as a personal trainer and began to learn the amazing benefits that strength training  can have on dance technique and for injury prevention.

Upon graduating, Monika founded The Dance Training Project, which specializes in providing strength and conditioning training for dancers of all genres (but also for regular people who just want to look, feel, and move better).

Monika is an advocate for dancers stepping into the gym, getting stronger, resistant to injury, and challenging their bodies in new ways. With personal experience recovering from many common dance injuries, her goal now is to teach dancers that strength training can prevent such injuries, and change the way they move and how they feel as people.

In addition to dancing and lifting heavy things, Monika enjoys reading, writing, yoga, cycling, coffee and bacon.

Monika also practices Thai Yoga Massage, and has received her level 1 certification from the acclaimed Lotus Palm school, in Montreal.

Bio provided by Monika



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Find out what Monika had to say in this week’s shout out…

Nikki: Do you remember the first time you started dancing?

Monika: I was 6. My mom put me in ballet classes at Lethbridge University. I hated it so I quit when the semester was done. 6 years later, after trying and failing at team sports, I realized that ballet wasn’t the only form of dance in existence, and I started jazz classes. Then, when I was 12, I decided to take up ballet again, knowing that it would help with my jazz technique. This time around I appreciated it more, and it became one of my favourite styles of dance.

Nikki: Do you remember the first song you choreographed to?

Monika: I remember choreographing to Earl Had to Die, by the Dixie Chicks for a grade 7 lip-syncing competition with two other girlfriends. We got second place and won a pizza. But our choreography was way better than the girl who won. Just saying…

Nikki: Your personal advice for dancers when it comes to free styling?

Monika: I suck at free styling. It’s never come naturally to me. But I can tell you WHY I suck a free styling- I find it hard to let go of self-judgement and have my share of emotional blocks. I become very self-conscious when there is no structure to follow. That said, lately I’ve been having more and more moments when I’ve been able to get through these blocks and not judge every single movement, so the best advice I could give is to just stop giving a crap about what other people might think of you, because you should be dancing first for yourself, not for someone else- Dance for your own pleasure, not for that of the audience. Acknowledge your emotional baggage, face it head on, and then make art with it.

Nikki: Getting in the zone to choreograph, what does it take for you?

Monika: I don’t consider choreography to be an area I excel in, but I get inspired by the music. Before I even start moving, I like to listen to the song lying on the floor with my eyes closed. I get really inside my head (another reason why I suck at free styling), and sometimes have sequences choreographed while lying on the floor before I even start moving. Sometimes this works well, and other times… Not so much. And going along with the previous question, I need to be in a non-judgmental place mentally, and allow things to happen, whether they work or not.

Nikki: Who are some of your biggest influences in the Dance industry?

Monika: Teacher: Darryl Tracy. I love his classes because he is also a physiotherapist and he is so body aware. His classes just feel so good to do. I always think about my body and how it moves in new ways after dancing with him.

Company: The Australian Dance Theatre. I love strong, physical dancing, and these guys kill it! This is the type of dancing I wish I could do. Gary Stewart (artistic director) is the man.

Educator: Donna Krasnow. I have become engrossed in the new(ish) field of the dance sciences, and recently had the opportunity to speak with Donna (who has a MA in dance science, and is the creator of Conditioning with Imagery for Dancers). We talked about anatomy, training, injuries, and everything in between. She is a huge inspiration for me, as I work to develop my own style of strength training specifically to benefit dancers.

Nikki: Name a Toronto Choreographer you enjoy working with and why?

Monika: David Earl! I had the opportunity a few years back to perform the Youth section of his piece Maelstrom, and it was probably the most fun I’ve had performing a piece of choreography. David is such a kind soul, and it was such an honor to dance in one of his pieces.

Nikki: Name one of your favorite artists to work with and why? (It does not have to be a pop star any type of artist that a Dancer would work with i.e.; another Dancer, Choreographer, Musician etc.)

Monika: I have to give a shoutout to Sheldon DeSouza- amazingly talented musician. Throughout the 4 years I studied at Ryerson, he has been my favourite accompanist. He is such a talented musician, and I’m sure most dancers in Toronto who have danced to his music, or have danced for one of his productions, would agree.

Nikki: Are you currently working on any projects?

Monika: Funny you should ask…I am the owner and founder of The Dance Training Project, through which my goal is to educate dancers, of all levels and genres, on the importance of strength training, for injury prevention, improved technical execution, and overall badassery. I work with recreational, professional, and university level dancers, offering strength training courses as well as personal and small group training. I created the DTP as a result of being chronically injured, and after seeing the amazing improvements in my own dance technique through working with a personal trainer myself. It’s really amazing how becoming stronger helps dancers, and it saddens me that the place of strength training in the dance industry is so misunderstood. I write about my experiences training dancers on a regular basis on my blog ( I also practice thai yoga massage, and offer this service to dancers and non-dancers alike. At the moment I am getting ready or the DTP summer program, which will allow dancers to train during their summer off-season, so they can come back to regular classes stronger in the fall. I’m super pumped. I am also teaching a conditioning class called Sweat, Strength and Sweat for P.O.S.E Dance Company ( on Thursday evenings. And speaking of P.O.S.E, I am also training in Salsa with them, and you can see me performing at their Red Hot Salsa Social on April 27th at Dovercourt House. And I think that’s it… For now.

Nikki: Qualities you believe Toronto Dancers possess?

Monika: Toronto dancers are hungry. I don’t mean because they’re starving artists, but because they’ve got passion. Many of my dancer friends, and dancers I coach, refuse to take no for an answer and do what it takes to make it in the industry- They don’t give up. They give it their all every moment of everyday, and they make things happen. It’s really inspiring.

Nikki: Any advice for emerging dancers and choreographers working/training in Toronto?

Monika: Like I mentioned above- You must refuse to take no for an answer and not let fear guide you. If you can’t get the job you want, sometimes you have to make the opportunity for yourself- like a few of my class-mates who recently started their own dance company (ReActive Dance Theatre). If you are passionate about dancing, then always make choices that allow you to follow this passion. Never be complacent. Reach out to everybody to expand your network, because you never know who might hire you (or who you might hire). And above all, keep positive. The dance industry can be harsh on the mind and body. You will get injured, but you can overcome it, and be a stronger person for it. You will have days when your brain will feel fried, but when things seem down they will always go back up. You can count on it for as long as the tide goes out and comes back in. Oh, and take care of your bodies! Don’t push through injuries, take the rest you need, and make sure you’re strong enough before you start dancing again. But I’m only speaking from experience ;).



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