Category Archives: Dancers

Navid Charkhi Dances Into His Second “Descendants” Movie

Working 15-hour days is nothing when you love what you do and you’re having a good time doing it. For Iranian-Canadian dancer, Navid Charkhi, it is working with esteemed director, Kenny Ortega, the cast and the choreographers on Disney’s Descendants 2 film that makes long, grueling days fun in front of and behind the camera.

Navid Charkhi and Kenny Ortega
Navid Charkhi with Kenny Ortega on the Descendants 2 set.

“The way Kenny talks to the actors and dancers, and presents his acting or movement ideas to the cast– I feel he sees everything happening already and when he gives direction to the cast it is usually brilliant. There’s always a wow factor when you see his demonstrations,” says Charkhi.  “I watch closely and follow his steps behind the scenes.”

Who wouldn’t when working with a three-time Emmy award-winner who has directed projects like High School Musical, choreographed timeless films such as Dirty Dancing, and collaborated with heavy-hitters Michael Jackson, Bette Midler and Gene Kelly?

Charkhi and Ortega actually have similar reasons for getting into show business. Both were inspired as boys by dancers they idolized. For Ortega it was Hollywood screen legend, Kelly that moved him toward a career in the entertainment industry. Charkhi grew up watching Michael Jackson on television and was mesmerized, copying and learning from the popular recording artist and dancer’s moves. Charkhi admits to being a bit starstruck by the Descendants director’s history with the King of Pop.

“Kenny has worked with Micheal Jackson himself. Hearing stories of them working just brings tears to my eyes.”

Ortega is pretty impressed with Charkhi, too. The director recalls that Charkhi proved himself a standout right from the very beginning.

“I could not believe how much talent and skill he demonstrated at the initial auditions for the production,” remembers Ortega. “Usually dancers take a few takes and auditions before beginning to impress the director and the production crew. However, this was not the case for Navid.”

Dancer Navid Charkhi

Indeed Charkhi’s natural instincts when performing complex dance moves became an asset during the three-day Descendants 2 audition.

“On the first day over 400 people showed up and more than 200 of them got cut,” he says.

Co-choreographer, Tony Testa, explains that those who could not keep up while learning a new piece of choreography each day were cut from the production. Charkhi, on the other hand, has quickly made himself an “irreplaceable asset to the film,” according to Ortega. Not long after the initial auditions Charkhi was assigned to working alongside Testa, as he was the only dancer able to keep up with the changing challenges throughout the production.

“[Navid] is able to instantly adapt to any type of dance depending on the style of the production, which is an extremely important characteristic for a Descendants 2 dancer to have,” explains Testa.

In addition to versatility, characterization is also extremely important for a dancer working in the film industry. Ron Oliver directed Charkhi in the film Mostly Ghostly 3, for which Charkhi was promoted as assistant to choreographer, Richard O’Sullivan and helped to create choreography and prepare the cast for filming the sequences in just three days. Oliver is quick to express how well Charkhi works under pressure but, as a director, also gives insight into Charkhi’s acting abilities.

“Navid’s dance aesthetic is extremely distinct from the rest of his peers as he is able to portray character emotions through his dance moves,” states Oliver.

In the first Descendants movie, Charkhi got to play a baddie that wreaks havoc on a village. For Descendants 2, which is set to premiere in summer 2017, he still gets to explore his dark side, this time as a pirate. According to Paul Becker, who co-choreographed the original Descendants film, it’s a far cry from Charkhi’s real-life personality, however.

Navid Charkhi

“Navid is a generous spirit and great to work with,” insists Becker. “His giving nature comes across in his dancing. I have had the pleasure of hiring Navid as a dancer on [multiple] projects and always welcome the opportunity to work with people like him.”

Charkhi’s combination of generosity, work ethic, talent, and ability to adapt to any style or genre makes this Descendants dance principal one to watch as he ascends to great heights in Hollywood.

Keanu Uchida Embodies a Champion Horse in New Musical “Dancer”

Keanu Uchida is still a fresh face in the professional dance world but he has already achieved considerable diversity and prestige in his career.

While still studying dance at his home dance studio near Ottawa, Uchida was honored with acceptance into the highly-respected summer intensive program at The Julliard School in 2013.

He has also received many regional and international titles in dance competition, making him one to watch in Canada and beyond. Most notably, he was awarded the title of Senior Male Best Dancer in 2014 at international dance event, The Dance Awards and given the opportunity to assist celebrated choreographers like Travis Wall, Nick Lazzarini, Mia Michaels, and Al Blackstone at conventions.

The multi-talented Uchida, who is a musician as well as a student of physics at The University of Toronto, is making big contributions to the professional dance community with his work on screen and on stage. He danced leading roles as a principal dancer on BBC television series, The Next Step and was hand-selected by head choreographer, Jeff Dimitriou to appear as one of only 15 dancers in the 2015 Pan American Games Closing Ceremonies production which was broadcast to an international audience.

“Keanu is simply brilliant,” says Stacey Tookey, who oversees contemporary dance for the NUVO Dance Convention and is probably best known for her appearances as a resident choreographer and guest judge on the Canadian and American versions of the dance competition reality show So You Think You Can Dance.

Canadian dancer Keanu Uchida

Uchida has also proven an invaluable contributor to dance in Toronto as a featured dancer in immersive and challenging performances by leaders in the city’s contemporary dance scene.

“I often create while channeling Keanu’s movement and essence,” says Cora Kozaris, choreographer of CARNÉ, a bold, new work debuting at one of Toronto’s oldest contemporary dance presenting organizations, Dancemakers Centre for Creation. “His uniqueness and creativity is harmonious with my mind. Together, we inspire each other to push boundaries.”

Uchida is looking forward to the next evolutionary step in his career as he immerses himself in the leading role, Northern Dancer in the upcoming musical theater production, Dancer, which is expected to debut in Spring 2017 at Toronto’s historic Elgin Theatre.

After a competitive audition process that lasted two days and lured many of Canada’s best dancers, he waited months for casting results to discover he was being offered to lead the cast as a race horse that is crowned Canada’s first winner of the Kentucky Derby. Uchida spent an intense three weeks last Spring working with Tookey, who is choreographer for the show, and producer John McKellar to artistically draft the scripted dance pieces during the workshop phase of the production.

“Digging into the creative process with both Stacey and John was a compelling experience,” recalls Uchida. “Both asked a lot from me regarding my character and discovering the role of Northern Dancer became a collaborative effort. I was given artistic freedom to try lots of things.”

The musical, told in “ten furlongs” and split into two acts, follows Northern Dancer’s steady rise to success. A horse no one wanted to buy, he forms special relationships with his owners, is trained and put to the test in race after race, eventually becoming a national symbol of pride. The story is an emotional journey as he seeks acceptance from the equine community and of himself.

The character of Norther Dancer has no lines in the musical, though he is in almost every scene. He communicates through body language and dance with friends and a few enemies throughout the performance. The technical and demanding choreography by Tookey requires of Uchida significant grace, poise, and control, not to mention, imagination and the ability to explore and innovate.

“Lots of movement was developed from improvisation, where I was asked to embody the horse and embrace its motion as naturally as possible,” says Uchida. “I wasn’t asked to ‘dance’ like a horse, but rather to be one.”

Uchida’s capabilities as a very creative and dextrous dancer made him perfect for this character and its development.

“Keanu’s ability to implement his creative vision while adhering to tight deadlines is what makes him an essential asset to any project he is a part of,” says Tookey.

Toronto-based dancer, Keanu Uchida

Fellow dancers and choreographers with whom Uchida has worked repeatedly mention his unique brilliance and artistry as a performer.

“Besides his physical capabilities, he has an incredible way of bringing you into a world,” explains Julia Cratchley, who hired Uchida last year for an immersive dance project with her company TranscenDANCE. “He will make you believe anything he does and captivate you doing even the slightest thing.”

Being thrown into a central role in a musical has inspired Uchida to take voice lessons.

“This process has completely sparked my interest in musical theatre,” he remarks.

Given his dedication and talent, it seems inevitable that no matter where Uchida’s career takes him next, audiences are very likely to see more of this young professional on stage in the future.

Dancer Justin Lopes Transforms Himself For FOX Rocky Horror Reboot

“You don’t realize how exciting something is until it’s actually happening,” says Canadian dancer Justin Lopes.

For a dancer, it doesn’t get much more electrifying than landing a role in legendary director-choreographer, Kenny Ortega’s next directorial project. That’s especially true when that project happens to be a highly anticipated, made-for-television reimagining of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which makes its primetime premiere on FOX in October 2016.

Ortega, who was mentored by Gene Kelly early in his career, is best known for directing Michael Jackson’s This Is It concerts, the High School Musical trilogy, and for choreographing the film Dirty Dancing and Madonna’s Material Girl music video. Lopes, of course, felt honored to work with the industry giant.

“To even be auditioning for Rocky Horror was an incredible feeling,” says Lopes. “Booking the job and working one-on-one with Mr. Ortega was the cherry on top.”

Dancer Justin Lopes
Dancer Justin Lopes | Photo by Alvin Collantes

Lopes, it’s clear, has the ability and versatility to make it in Hollywood– and Transylvania. Dancing in a large-scale production like The Rocky Horror Picture Show requires the ability to learn at an intensely fast pace and adapt to changes quickly. According to Jeff Mortensen, the production’s assistant choreographer, whether these changes have to do with spacing or choreography, Lopes would take anything given to him and run with it.

“Justin couldn’t have been a better fit for our team,” he says. “I could always count on him to ask the right questions and help propel our Transylvanian ship in the direction it needed to go.”

Lopes stays sharp both mentally and physically for roles like this one by continuing to broaden his movement vocabulary and study different styles of dance. He considers versatility second only to expression of individuality when it comes to a dancer’s performance abilities. He is trained in contemporary, hip hop, jazz, ballet, modern, tap and acrobatic dance styles and is into athletic activities like soccer, dirt-biking, and skateboarding.

“To me, dance is movement,” he says. “All of these different styles allow me to have different languages to bring across to an audience and to project my feelings and emotions in different ways.”

Dancer Justin Lopes, Photo by Greg Tjepkema

It is his ability to immerse himself in a character that made Lopes an unquestionable fit for The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

“When we were looking for our Transylvanians we wanted to find people who could transform and take on these alien characters,” says Mortensen. “Justin’s talent not only lies in his dancing but also this transformation ability.”

Lopes is thrilled to be a part of the continuing history of this cult classic, and feels he’s grown from the experience and the leadership on set. Still, the work is not always glamorous. Lopes says the project took 2 full months and did take a toll on his body. He’s got no regrets, however, and considers Rocky Horror the most positive, fulfilling, and rewarding thing he’s yet done in his still young but flourishing dance career.

“When you’re surrounded by that much inspiration everyday, it definitely makes every bruise, scrape, and all the hours put in, worth it.”

Dancer Nick Phillips Embraces The Thrill Of Performing Live With Legends

No matter how many times he crosses the boards on stage or hits his mark in front of a camera, nerves and adrenaline are expected and even welcomed in the life of a performer. Still, as dancer Nick Phillips knows first-hand, some extraordinary career experiences go beyond normal nerves and excitement, especially at the start. Performing on stage with Oscar-winning actress Hayley Mills has been one such highlight for Phillips.

“To be honest I was incredibly nervous the first time we rehearsed,” recalls Phillips, “but [Mills] was so lovely and supportive the nerves subsided very quickly and by performance time I felt very comfortable and relaxed.”

Legends, which toured Australia in 2015 is a comedy starring Mills and her sister Juliet Mills as two rival film stars. Phillips, an in-demand dancer from Melbourne, stepped into the role of Boom Boom Johnson, a high-energy part that called upon Phillips’ remarkable versatility. He had to dance, perform acrobatics, beatbox, rap, and deliver dialog with comedic timing that held its own opposite two veteran actresses.

Nick Phillips, Photo by Jackson Ross

“To work with [the Mills sisters] was truly a privilege. I learned a lot from them about performance stamina– they were able to hold the audience’s attention for two hours while on stage practically the whole time.”

To wow a seasoned actress like Hayley Mills, is surely a noteworthy accomplishment. However, that’s exactly what Phillips achieved when he took on this character with the cheerful enthusiasm of one who lives for the challenge of live performance.

“When he had to step in and fill the breach left by a fellow actor,” remembers Mills, “he did so with alacrity and total professionalism, was word perfect, and danced brilliantly– we were all thrilled by his performance and very impressed.”

High praise aside, touring a show can be grueling. According to Phillips, traveling between cities is frequently lonely and it is common to experience some homesickness. Not to mention, the challenge of keeping the show fresh.

“When you’re doing eight shows a week, it can be hard to give the same high energy performance every night, especially with a character like Boom Boom,” says Phillips. “It can also take quite the toll on your body. I had to make sure I was always warmed up properly.”

Fortunately, a well-trained professional is accustomed to hard work. Phillips, who has gone from a young breakdancer with a relatively late start in any formal dance training to a sought-after performer for stage, television and commercial events, has shown great mastery of both the physical and mental challenges of the work. This natural ability may have much to do with his attitude.

“[Phillips] is a great company member, being positive and enthusiastic,” says Mills, “qualities that enhance the experience for everyone.”

Australian Dancer, Actor Nick Phillips

Though playing a very specific role as opposed to performing in an ensemble was different for Phillips he looks forward to tackling more roles that stretch him as a dancer and performer. And, though he loves the accessibility and experience of film and television, he enjoys the unpredictable response and instant validation of live performances like the one he gave in Legends.

“My favorite part was most definitely the surprise element. From the moment Boom Boom first storms onstage to the firing of his confetti-filled gun before he busts into a strip dance, the audience reactions are absolutely priceless.”

Q&A With Brazilian Up-and-Comer Priscila Zortea

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Brazilian dancer and actress Priscila Zortea

It is extremely difficult to make your dream come true, but so rewarding. It is that much more difficult when you have two dreams, but Priscila Zortea is beginning to feel the immense satisfaction that comes with achieving both dreams: dancing and acting.

Since graduating from HB Studio’s acting program in New York City, the Brazilian native has been quite busy. Priscila appeared in the regional musicals A Chorus Line, The Music Man, Joseph and the amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, as well as several commercials and industrials, which launched her career into a large list of achievements.

She acted in the feature film A Journey to a Journey directed by Canadian Barry Germansky, the short film Unveiled directed by Klemen Novak, and the webseries Distortion based on super hero fights. She danced with Gotham City Cheerleaders in New York, which is an unofficial dance team that supports the New York Giants, and with them had the opportunity to dance on HBO’s Last Week Tonight With John Oliver. She also was a dancer in the 2015 season of LA KISS football, making her rock ’n’ roll dream come true.

In a short time, Priscila Zortea, has an ever growing list of achievements.    To find out more about this up-and-comer, make sure to read below.

You can also find out more at:

www.PriscilaZortea.com

What made you get into acting and dancing?

PZ: My mom took me to my first ballet class when I was three years old and I haven’t stopped dancing since! I fell more in love with ballet and performing as each year passed and in a way I knew I wanted to keep doing that. When I was around 12 my dream to become an artist became stronger and I felt like I could talk about it and try to improve myself. I told my dad that I wanted to dance “seriously” and asked if I could attend a better school. We lived in a very small town and there weren’t opportunities available for me. I’m very thankful to have a supportive family! My dad said yes and my mom started driving me to a bigger city an hour away a few times a week so I could take dance classes and perform.

My love for acting also was always there but once again I didn’t know what to do about it. I remember playing in the background of my house as if I was an actress performing something, or I would dress up and sit by the trees and pretend I was Alice in Wonderland, or a character from a TV show I happened to be watching at the time. But there was no way to really go after it. I did some theatre in school but that was about it.

Then also when I was about 12 or 13 I went to my first audition for TV. I read about it on a newspaper, it was an audition for the Brazilian version of Argentinean TV hit Chiquititas. I had no idea what to expect but I went to this audition in the capital of the Estate I lived in. I had a great time, even though I had no idea what I was doing.

What do you like about acting and dancing?

PZ: I think art in general is such a wonderful way to express yourself and connect to other people. I always felt like myself dancing, like my best self, like my true self, like the person I wanted to be. And then when I found out I could also talk it was even better! Acting is an amazing exercise to get to know yourself and I feel like I’m always learning how I truthfully react to things and how I feel about different situations that I don’t get a chance to explore in ‘real life’. Also, the fact that a character has the power to connect to the public, it makes my work even better. It’s such a powerful thing when you can relate to characters you see on TV or films. You can feel like you’re not the only one who’s going through that. You can feel supported. You can feel hopeful. You can dream about a happy ending just like the one you saw and that’s priceless! And as an actor I’m the one who will pass that message to you, the public. And I love that responsibility.

What are the challenges to acting and dancing?

PZ: Being vulnerable in front of strangers, be willing to show your true self, those are challenges to all artists. We just use our experiences and our emotions, and we show the most beautiful and the ugliest things about ourselves. That’s a scary thing. Human beings tend to hide and feel comfortable and by avoiding their honest feeling. Artists are not allowed to do that. It seems vague but those things are a huge part of our daily challenges. A dancer needs to always be in shape, eat well, be strong, have technique, but also be artistic. We need to learn choreography quickly and give a voice to it immediately, and those are lifelong challenges for us. There’s no such thing as perfection but we’re always working towards it. Acting makes you question so much about yourself in different situations and your relation to other people. then you put yourself in a position of being judged for who you are, the way you look, the way you speak, the way you react to things, the limitations people say you have, and much more. You really need a tough skin to keep true to yourself and move forward believing that the answer you have is the right one, and one day you’ll show it to the right person and the right time and it’ll give you a career and sense of fulfillment.

What made you want to move to LA?

PZ: I graduated from a theatre program in New York City and then worked there for a couple of years. I then found an audition to be a dancer for the arena football team LA KISS in Los Angeles and moved here to dance for them last year. It was a dream come true! The owners of the team are Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons from the band KISS and I’ve been a huge fan of them since 1997. Rock ’n’ Roll is my biggest passion after acting and dance! I couldn’t believe I got the opportunity to represent their brand!

What are you currently working on?

PZ: I’m in a play called Wonder Women at The Next Stage Theatre in Hollywood. It’s a comedy directed by Chris Berube. I play the role of Mistress. She’s slightly based on the Catwoman and it’s a very fun role. The play is about female super heroes who decide to rebel and go against the league that makes them be sidekicks to male heroes, wear skimpy outfits and never get the job done by themselves. They’re showing that they are better than that and deserve respect!

I’m also collaborating with screenwriter CJ Walley on a short film to be shot in Vancouver in July.

What are your plans for the future?

PZ: I want to be a working actress in American television. I want to help bring even more diversity to what you see on your TV and I want to be an example to everybody who thinks they can’t dream too big because they were born in a small town with no opportunities, or because someone told them they have limitations. I want everything to be possible for me and for anybody who dreams. I dream of being the first Brazilian actress to be respected worldwide and accomplished in different fields.

Versed In Contemporary and Street Styles, Dancer Renee Ritchie is a Chameleon of Dance

Dancer Renee Ritchie
Dancer, Renee Ritchie; Photo by Chris Tsattalios

 

Professional dancers who have the ability to adjust and adapt quickly to changes in style are prized in the dance world.

Renee Ritchie, a former contestant on Season 3 of Australia’s So You Think You Can Dance (SYTYCD), celebrity teacher, choreographer, and dance assistant, is one of those versatile dancers colleagues are happy to work with again and again.

“Renee has a very strong technical background, including contemporary. She makes beautiful shapes and lines with her body,” says Cat Rendic, a former NBA Miami Heat dancer who has toured with artists like Shakira, Jennifer Lopez, Ricky Martin, and Iggy Azalea, has worked with Richie on multiple projects. “As if that wasn’t enough, she [Ritchie] has also trained in various street styles, making her a chameleon of dance.”

Ritchie has spent many years developing her talent and abilities through hard work and commitment to growing in her art and skills in the dance industry. A dancer from the age of five, dancing gave a shy child like Ritchie confidence.

“I loved dance so much, it was all I ever wanted to do.” she says.

Ritchie’s journey from Top-12 SYTYCD contestant has been filled with successes that have taken her on tour throughout Australia and the United States. In addition to working as a dancer for major recording artists like Kylie Minogue and Kelly Clarkson, she was selected to be part of the Nigel Lythgoe and Brian Friedman-produced Go90 series, Every Single Step, making it to the top 6 in this talent search for young, fresh choreographers. Richie currently travels the convention circuit with Hollywood Vibe, working with all of its celebrity choreographers as a dance assistant, demonstrating their work for thousands of young dance hopefuls.

The work is demanding but also very creative. Ritchie must be able to quickly learn new choreography and execute it with a high level of performance immediately. Getting to know each choreographer, all of whom work very differently, and deciding when to offer creative input is a big part of the job.

“You’re always working and pushing to be better,” explains Ritchie. “To work at a high level with these choreographers and others around you is rewarding. It’s nice to be appreciated and know your hard work has paid off.”

 

Renee Ritchie, dancer
Renee Ritchie, professional dancer; Photo by Chris Tsattalios

 

In addition to her work with celebrity dancers like Alexa Anderson, Caitlin Kinney, Kent Boyd, and Allison Holker–all of SYTYCD fame– Ritchie collaborates frequently on creative projects with choreographer Kevin Maher, including his work on Jennifer Lopez’ Las Vegas show at The Axis at Planet Hollywood Resort.

Ritchie also co-choreographed the Paula Abdul award-winning music video, “Check Yourself” which raised awareness of breast cancer and was assistant choreographer to Lucas Newline on the show Absinthe in Las Vegas, choreographing one of its numbers in 2013. Ritchie is excited to soon tour with KAR Elite Dance Competition as one of their celebrity judges and choreographers.

Ritchie knows that when things get tough, she always has dance as a kind of cure for life’s difficulties. She is inspired most by mentors Kevin Maher, Jason Winters and Tony Tzar who she says stay true to who they are as creators and teachers and give selflessly of their time and advice.

Ritchie seems to follow their example well. Aside from the positive, contagious energy that she brings to the room, Rendic describes Ritchie as someone consistently willing to step in and offer help.

“Renee is always going the extra mile,” says Rendic.

This habit is why a dance chameleon like Ritchie will go the distance. She plans to continue to work behind the scenes on tours, hoping to someday work with artists like Beyoncé and Nick Jonas. She also wants to share her talent and knowledge with a younger generation of dancers as a faculty member of conventions traveling America. Well on her way toward these goals, Ritchie’s future in the dance industry looks bright and multi-colored.

Prolific Dancer Brings all the right moves to A World Fit for Kids!

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Latoya Webley has for more than a decade been one of the world’s premier dancers. She has performed with star music artists including Rihanna, Drake and Shakira, and brings her expertise to noted organizations such as A World Fit for Kids!

BY JEREMY CURTIS

 

Toronto-born dancer Latoya Webley has graced many of the world’s biggest stages and performed with superstars Rihanna, Drake, Shakira, the Black Eyed Peas and more over the last 16 years. She’s dispatched her outstanding concoction of dancehall, African, Soca, hip-hop and street jazz dance styles internationally, on tour and for music industry leading events including the Grammy Awards, BET Awards and Much Music Video Awards, to name a few. Webley’s dance career has been characterized by persisting success that’s spanned from North America to Asia, propelling her to a coveted position at the pinnacle of the industry in which many strive for and few achieve.

Webley’s indelible, sought after talent keeps her name rolling off the lips of artists, choreographers, decision makers and audiences aplenty. But there’s a lesser known chapter of her story that’s of essential importance to her career and journey as a dancer. Webley dedicates a segment of her craft in giving back through teaching, guiding, mentoring, inspiring and empowering youth through dance. She has the rare ability to make her moves move others.

The trend can be traced back to her own origins when Webley first began dancing and teaching at community centers around Toronto, including the East Scarborough Boys and Girls Club. And since 2013, she’s engaged the same for A World Fit for Kids! (WFIT), an afterschool expanded learning program based in Los Angeles.

For the community based non-profit, Webley teaches a dance program for Virgil Middle School students that’s complete with educating in fitness, health and nutrition.

WFIT program director Ian Keiller said, “We’re a community-based non-profit in the afterschool world. With the resources we have, to have that top notch talent, it’s very difficult. We felt honored to have someone of her caliber working with her our kids.”

Webley said, “These are all life skills. It’s not all just dance. It’s a fitness package. It’s a life package.”

Founded after the 1992 Los Angeles Riots, WFIT provides award-winning, daily programs at Title I schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District, where 84 percent of students come from economically disadvantaged homes, according to WFIT’s website. Programs are for students of every grade level in elementary, middle and high schools. Parents get in on the action too. Programs feature core areas of physical activity, nutrition, academics and mentoring.

The goal is to promote physical, mental and emotional wellness, and the goals have been met. WFIT received the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports Gold Medal award and a National Community Leadership Award from the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition.

CEO Normandie Nigh explains on WFIT’s website that WFIT has brought more than $46 million to underserved LA communities, served more than 300,000 children and young people, trained over 10,000 teachers and staff and employed more than 2,900 local community residents. WFIT has also trained more than 1,500 Nike employees as physical activity volunteer leaders and Community Ambassadors, as well as others in the U.K., Australia, Canada, France and South Korea.

“What I really like about World Fit is throughout the year we do various training that tackles different aspects of health and wellness,” said Webley, who more recently is participating with the program’s Nike training extension. “As much as people may think I know, I’m always a student and learning. They always have ongoing programs that inform us on what’s new and healthy, and what we should be doing. It’s not only for us to teach the kids, it’s also for our self-awareness.”

Webley developed the dance program that serves Virgil Middle School, located north of Koreatown. Her students undergo a training program to begin and rotate different activities for different days ranging from health, fitness and nutrition that each supplement dance instruction.

“We strive to improve kids’ grades, get them to build friendships, physically release energy and sharpen problem solving skills,” she said. “We demand that from them and they have to maintain grades to participate.”

The program, which runs throughout school years, draws student dancers of all skill levels from beginners to those experienced. Some go on to compete at dance events such as Beyond the Bell and Sharp International at Knott’s Berry Farm.

“There is an array of all skill levels, so we have to create a program that has balance,” said Webley. “We start off by assessing where the kids are at. We teach routines to them. The bulk of the routines are usually hip hop, but we incorporate other styles like dancehall, breaking, African, jazz and ballet. Aside from dancing, there’s also running and strength training. We incorporate elements of stretching, flexibility and acrobatics, and we encourage kids to participate in the dance teams at their schools.”

The WFIT dance team from Virgil Middle School is this year’s Beyond the Bell reigning champion.

“She’s got a great presence and rapport with kids,” Keiller said of Webley. “She was the right temperament for middle school. It’s a tough age group to reach.”

Webley has been serving in similar roles for years. She currently choreographs for the Los Angeles SparKids, the official kids dance team of the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks, along with dancer Brandee Evans. She has taught dance at the Osaka School of Music in Japan and conducted dance workshops at Osaka’s Myster Dance Studio, AX Dance studio, Alley Opp Dance Studio and the Unity Dance Studio in Hiroshima.

Webley’s music video debut came in Sean Paul’s “Temperature/Breakout” video in 2005. She danced in Rihanna’s first video, “Pon de Replay,” in Drake’s first video, “Replacement Girl” and in the Diddy, Lenny Kravitz, Pharrell Williams video, “Show Me Your Soul.”

Webley danced in many recurring performances with the internationally famed singer, Shakira, including her “She Wolf” promo tour, NBA All-Star Weekend performance, Yahoo and Clear Channel shows, on George Lopez Tonight, Good Morning America, The Late Show with David Letterman, So You Think You Can Dance (USA) and at the 2009 American Music Awards.

She has danced and toured with Kardinal Offishall, who opened in part of the 2005 50 Cent and G-Unit tour. Webley has also toured with Sean Paul, JoJo and Jamie Foxx in America, and with Destra Garcia in Trinidad and Tobago. While working in Japan, she danced at the 2009 Japan MTV Music Video Awards with the Black Eyed Peas.

This year, Webley danced in Rihanna’s smash hit video, “Work” featuring Drake, and she’s featured in a forthcoming Drake video that recently filmed. Last year, Webley danced in Will Smith and Bomba Estereo’s “Fiesta (remix)” video and at the Latin Grammy Awards with Fifth Harmony and Maluma.

Keiller credited Webley’s credentials as an asset to her work with WFIT and said the students “respond to people who really know what they’re talking about.”

It’s all collectively made for a positive experience that Webley helps cultivate.

“Her teams were always top notch, very organized and not only good performers, but a good group of kids,” said Keiller. “That stems from the leadership and the example she demonstrated. She was able to give them something to strive for to give them focus, keep them committed and set goals for themselves to strive to do their best.”

Showstopper Tate McRae Has Our Attention!

Rob Daly Phot2
Canadian Star Tate McRae shot by Rob Daly Photography

From contemporary dance to jazz and ballet, 12-year-old Tate McRae is a force to be reckoned with whose performances on stage and in film are impossible to take your eyes away from. The young star, whose become quite a celebrity in the Canadian entertainment industry over the last few years for her far reaching talent as an actress, dancer and singer, has achieved unparalleled diversity in her career.

Tate began dancing at the age of 6, and by the time she was 8 years old her beloved hobby had turned into a full-fledged career. Her ability to move her physical being and embody the music she dances to with the utmost skill and grace is astonishing. As a dance competitor, she is a tough opponent for any dancer to go up against, but she doesn’t dance for the awards as much as she dances for the underlying reason that performing is a part of her soul. It is something that she was born to do.

She admits, “Even in my spare time I chose to do something that has to do with the arts. I am always singing or dancing around or listening to music! I have been like that since I was a little girl. Even before I took lessons I was always putting on shows!”

Some of Tate’s dance accomplishments to date include winning the Junior Best Dancer Award at The Dance Awards in 2015, the Silver Medal Solo Award and Bronze Medal Pas De Deux Award at the 2015 YAGP (Youth America Grand Prix) finals in NYC, 2014 NYCDA (New York City Dance Alliance) National 1st Runner Up Mini Outstanding Dancer, and Mini National Best Dancer Award at The Dance Awards in 2013.

She was also selected as one of the few dancers to be a part of DancerPalooza’s Beat Squad, a group of America’s top competitive dance soloists selected to perform on the Hall of Fame Performance stage during DancerPalooza in California in 2014 and 2015.

Earlier this year she also performed at the Rule The World NUVO Closing Show in Calgary, Canada, which you can check out below.

 

Tate’s undeniable skill backed by her reputation as an extraordinary dancer has also benefitted her in her career as an actress. After signing with her current agency, Stars Academy Talent, several years ago, she began landing leading roles in television shows, films and commercials.

She explains, “I got into acting through my dancing and singing. I love musical theater and had to learn to develop characters for my songs… The same day I got an agent I booked a job doing voice overs for the show Lalaloopsy!”

As an actress Tate is known for her work as the voice of Spot Splatter Splash on the highly successful animated series Lalaloopsy, which aired on Nickelodeon and Nick Jr. in the U.S. and on Treehouse TV in Canada before moving to Family Jr. in 2014.

Aside from starring in 17 episodes of the popular children’s series, she also starred in the Lalaloopsy: Band Together video, which was released in August, the 2014 Lalaloopsy Ponies: The Big Show film and the 2013 Lala-Oopsies: A Sew Magical Tale video.

Last year she was a featured actress in Toyota’s commercial “Can’t Win Everything – Prairie Pageant.” Earlier this year she gave a dazzling contemporary dance performance in a music video for the CASBY and four-time Canadian Radio Music Award winning band Walk Off The Earth’s hit single “Rule the World.” In addition to being featured in promotional dance videos for Triple Flip, and modeling for dance companies including Capezio and Twear, Capezio also sponsors for her work as a dancer.

Tate admits, “Dancing has helped me with my career as an actor because I have made so many more connections through dance. The 2 worlds really do cross over. Dance has given me lots of confidence and has made me really comfortable performing. I do not get nervous when I am asked to recite lines or play a character.”

If her skill as an actress and a dancer wasn’t impressive enough (and of course, it is), Tate also happens to be an exuberantly talented singer. In fact her singing voice can be heard on a radio commercial for Resorts Of The Canadian Rockies, as well as in the show Lalaloopsy when she takes on the role of Holly Sleighbells.

You can get a glimpse of just how extraordinary of a singer she is in the video below where she performs a dance at The Dance Awards in NYC in 2014 to her cover over the song ‘Human’ .

 

The New Face of Entertainment: Adam Pedicini

Adam Pedicini
                                                           Adam Pedicini shot by Andrew Raszevski

Australian entertainer Adam Pedicini has displayed a rare talent — the ability to seamlessly take on the roles of television host, model, dancer, and actor in a multitude of genres from drama to horror to his personal favorite, comedy. Pedicini’s strikingly good looks also put him among the ranks of such Aussie heartthrobs as Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe.

Pedicini has been an avid fan of the theatre his entire life, and when he began acting on stage as a teenager he immediately proved to be a natural. His first performance was in a play called Patrick’s Hat Trick, which was aimed at a young audience. His role as a struggling magician was so popular it earned the play tour dates across much of New South Wales and Victoria in south Australia.

His theatre experience is impressive, and his prolific dedication to the stage stems from his love of the art form. In addition to Patrick’s Hat Trick, he’s played the famous role of Puck in the Australian Shakespeare Company’s production of the classic A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a prestigious role in itself. In his roles in the double-billed productions of writer Mark Dunn’s Judy Garland Slept Here and Full Frontal Male Nudity, he showcased his comedic talent, while also shining a spotlight on issues facing the LGBT community.

“The first play dealt with the homophobic issues of a small country town in Southern America,” said Pedicini. “The second looked at the body image of gay men. Although both were rather funny plays, they also had a strong message about gay rights and issues.”

With his incredibly outgoing personality, and being an avid supporter of LGBT rights, Pedicini also had the privilege of hosting the televised Sydney Mardi Gras parade. The parade was organized in part by Academy Award nominated actress and comedienne Lily Tomlin, and earned more than $30 million for the state of New South Wales, making it the second-largest event in the state in terms of its economic impact.

An entertainer with no boundaries to his medium, Pedicini is incredibly proud of his work in film. His feature film projects include True Face and Cold Feet. In True Face, he actually plays two characters with vastly different personalities, and it isn’t until late in the film that the viewer discovers the characters are actually the same person. Cold Feet is a comedy-horror film about a bachelor party, where Pedicini’s character Barry is playing the “bad influence” on his betrothed friend Freddie.

The director of True Face, Lauren Batschowanow, spoke highly of Pedicini’s devotion to his craft, and of his chemistry with his co-stars.

“Adam’s charisma and confidence made it easy for his co-stars to be natural in the scene,” said Batschowanow, “and it certainly created electricity on screen, which is what every director dreams of!”

Passionate about traveling the world, Pedicini has done a great deal of jet-setting. At the beginning of his career as a dancer, he performed on cruise ships as a way to see the world; within a few years his immense talent earned him a place dancing onstage across Europe with Cascada, the gold- and platinum-certified German dance-pop trio.

“There’s a special bond that a performer has with a crowd, and I really feed off that,” said Pedicini. In addition to his tour with Cascada, Pedicini has also performed in the Britain’s Got Talent, UK X Factor, and Australia’s Got Talent.

With such a multi-faceted and rare set of talents, Adam Pedicini is certain to become the new face of entertainment.

The World is a Stage for Irish Dancer Taylor Reardigan

Dancer Taylor Reardigan
                                                                                Dancer Taylor Reardigan

A multi-talented Canadian dancer, Taylor Reardigan was first drawn to the stage and the dance world after witnessing the fast-moving feet, graceful jumps and rhythmic clicking sounds of Riverdance early on in childhood.

Caught up in a whirlwind of Irish dance at an age when most of her peers were still learning how to run and decipher their right from left, Reardigan put her magical feet to the test and whole-heartedly jumped into the competitive field of Irish dancing at the age of 6.

Naturally gifted with perfect rhythm and incredible athleticism, the young competitor spent her youth and teenage years training and competing with the best Irish dancers in the world.

“Irish dancing is literally all picking up your own body weight. You are flying in the air for 3 minutes picking yourself off the ground and it seriously takes so much out of you,” explains Reardigan. “The amount of training you have to do just to get through one dance is crazy. There are so many drills and weight lifting and leg training. For worlds we actually get a personal trainer in before every class to help us build up our stamina.”

By the time she had reached high school, Reardigan had already staked her claim as one of the strongest dance competitors in the sport, a feat proven by her extensive award collection which includes a lengthy list of 1st place awards at world qualifiers, as well as 15th place at the 2008 World Irish Dancing Championships and 13th at the 2009 World Irish Dancing Championships.

“I have won against literally 100’s of other Irish dancers and at world championships you are against 300 or more girls and dancing in a concert hall for 1,000’s of people,” said Reardigan.

While Reardigan continues to perform professionally as an Irish dancer, her repertoire of work has come to include an incredibly diverse list of television, theater and musical productions as well.

Some of her theatrical and musical productions include “Leaps and Bounds,” where she wowed audiences with her mesmerizing abilities as a jazz dancer at Victoria Performing Arts, St. Francis’ “High School Musical” where she played the role of Sharpay, “Shumka” at the Jubilee Auditorium and “Shhh” in New York. Reardigan has also been cast as a dancer in the television shows Blacklisted and Starz Power.

Audiences can catch Taylor Reardigan in the musical production of “Homecoming,” which opens this Friday at 7 p.m. at the York Performing Arts Center in Queens, New York. She will also be performing as an Irish dancer in the renowned Big Apple Circus in New York next year, and is currently working as the associate choreographer of the musical “A Christmas Story,” which will open at the John W Engeman Theater in New York on November 20.

When it comes to performing on stage, Reardigan feels at home, explaining, “I feel like I am exactly where I am supposed to be. I love it.”