Growing up as a competitive dancer, dance has been one of Jennie’s longest and greatest passions. The large community of dancers in the city is something that truly inspires her as a creative. So many great teachers and choreographers are emerging out of Toronto and younger generations are coming out as true professionals, hungry and eager to grow.
Photo Cred: Heritage Park Studio | Bag: Flatsquare Black
What does being a Torontonian mean to you?
Jennie: Being inspired by the things in the city, especially the dance community that I’m a part of, I think that Toronto has some of the best dancers in the world. People who are booking jobs and doing amazing things are coming from Toronto so I think just being inspired by the community that we have in Toronto, that’s what it means to me.
How has Toronto inspired you to be a dancer?
Jennie: Like I said, there’s a huge community of dancers and there’s so many different things going on in dance in Toronto, which really inspires me. Besides that, there are so many amazing things going on in our city all the time. Just taking a walk down the street, there’s a hundred different things to do. It’s amazing. I have a lot of American friends too. And every time they come to Toronto they always say "It’s the best city ever, we love it here. Everyone is so nice”. It’s everyone else in the city that inspires me.
Who has been your favourite choreographer or dancer to work with?
Jennie: When I was in my mid teens I worked as an assistant choreographer on So You Think You Can Dance and I had the opportunity to work with Mia Michaels who is an Emmy nominated choreographer. I was really young so I don’t think I understood at the time how amazing she really was. She totally pushed me way out of my comfort zone and at 15 I didn’t really understand what that would do for me but it totally taught me how to deliver and how to be present in the room with the choreographer. That was a really amazing opportunity for me at such a young age. And from that I got to work with Stacey Tookey who’s also Canadian. She’s phenomenal and has a wonderful spirit about her. It was super amazing to work with her. Looking back now, I think I was very naive to everything that was going on around me. I was like, "oh I’m just dancing and here helping out" but no, it was actually one of the most important amazing opportunities I’ve ever had. To work with someone like that and for someone to put their trust in me to create something was something special. So now looking back it was pretty awesome.
What do you see for the future of dance and the dance community in Toronto?
Jennie: That’s tough. There are so many things going on. The difficulty here is that we still don’t get as many opportunities as dancers in a city like LA or New York but what we do here is a little bit different. We definitely have more of a community of people who like to train and take classes and things like that. So, I see a lot of amazing teachers and choreographers emerging from Toronto because we have so many studios here where you can take class and do all those things. I just hope it keeps going and the younger generation that’s coming up into the professional world is hungry and eager and respects the people who have paved the path before them. When I was growing up into that situation, I was looking up to the people who have done it before me. I was taking their advice and listening to them and taking their classes. I think if we keep going in that direction, we will be unstoppable. I already know so many people who are so talented who are just waiting to have their moments. So I think it’s going to keep blowing up and getting better and better.
What is favourite type of music to dance to?
Jennie: I am a lyrical dancer so anything with lyrics you can connect to. I find it easier to dance to heartbreak songs and sad things because you can tap into that emotion a little bit. But anything with good lyrics, you can feel the words and emulate that through dance.
Obviously you are a dancer, would you classify yourself as an artist, an athlete or somewhere in between?
Jennie: I think its 50/50. What dancers do is 50% athletics and its takes a toll on your body like any kind of sport would but then you also need to have a really good balance of the artistic side so it can be appreciated as an art form as well.
You lead an active lifestyle so how has that influenced your personal fashion and style?
Jennie: Style wise, I definitely go for comfort all the time and typically I’ll just wear anything that I could maybe dance in. Anything I wear on top has to come off easy. If I can jump into a dance class later I have to be ready and prepared so I don’t have to do a full costume change. But definitely comfort, kinda tomboy, I have a lot of fashionable guy friends. So I kinda raid their closet. Boy jeans and boy shirts and vintage t-shirt things like that. Edgy, but not too edgy. More comfortable and chill.
You use the VENQUE Flatsquare Backpack. What made you gravitate towards that bag?
Jennie: I travel with a backpack every single day. When I go to teach, when I go to take a class or any of that stuff, everything is in my backpack. So anything that’s really stylish on the outside but works for me on the inside is awesome. So I went for a cool look. A little bit more edgy, maybe a little bit more on the tomboy side but totally works for me and fits. I carry an iPad on me all the time for all my music and a camera because I’m always filming my classes and things like that. So it just works for me. And it looks awesome.
You’re an actress as well. So obviously one of the first shows you did was a dance oriented show. What made you stick with that and transition to the acting world?
Jennie: When I auditioned for The Next Step, it was strictly dancing they were looking for. So I kinda went to this dance audition and they asked me a whole bunch of questions about what I do and I just answered them. The show was a little bit more unique in the fact that we don’t have to memorize lines, it’s a lot of improve and a lot of conversation. So typically our scenes are shaped from us just talking as friends and we are all really good friends on the show too. I wouldn’t really classify myself as an actor because what we did and what we trained in to be good at on this show is not typical of any kind of acting class or anything like that. So I just fell into it by accident and it was a really crazy experience.
What are you working on now?
Jennie: Right now I’m working with a company called on On The Floor. They’re dance competitions as well as dance conventions. They also do a bunch of events in support of Sick Kids. We pick dancers that compete in all our competitions and we come together in September and rehearse for a month and we put on this big show at the end of September. Over the past 5 year we raised over $70,000 in support of the Child Life Program which helps better the child’s experience within the hospital trying to make them feel like just a regular kid. That’s really near and dear to my heart and I’ve met a lot of amazing people doing that. Other than working with On The Floor, I’m a dance teacher. I teach at 2 studios full time and I have groups of students there that I’ve been teaching and they compete and stuff like that too. I feel more like the adult now, where I was a kid playing around before having all this fun and now I’m being the adult that these kids look up to. So it’s kinda cool.
The student becomes the teacher! If you were to put on a dance routine for anyone in the world, who would it be for, where would it be and what song would you dance to?
Jennie: This is tough. Honestly, after performing a few times at Sick Kids and seeing how that effected those kids and what that does for them I would say if I could perform for any of the patients at the hospital again or more often I would do that for sure because I can’t tell you how many kids I meet in that hospital that said, “I used to dance”, “I went to dance class”, or “I really want to get into dance but I’ve been here for months”. If I could perform for them that would be really cool. And what song would it be? I think I would totally go outside my comfort zone and maybe do something hip hop, something really exciting and hype. I still really like Justin Bieber and I don’t know if that’s cool anymore. Maybe a Justin Bieber mix mashup. I know he’s not really cool anymore but I still love him. I’m still a Beliebier.