Sabina Perry © Martin Misere

Sabina Perry (STDT graduate 2004) is currently in Toronto teaching at the Toronto Dance Community LOVE-IN and premiering her new work FUNNY/FUNERAL at the Citadel. Her upcoming show is the culmination of two years of working on a 30-minute solo for Molly Johnson (STDT graduate 2004), entitled Funeral For My 20s, and a 30-minute solo for herself, Funny Girl. In 2013 and 2014 Sabina created two versions of an autobiographical solo (one in Germany and one in Canada), dealing with the subjects of femininity, loneliness, disgust, sex, love, depression, and the lies we tell others and ourselves within the 10 years of our 20s. “In my 29th year, I wrote down many scenes that I lived which struck me as cinematic or emblematic for the whole of my 20s. This piece is a goodbye to one era and a mix tape of my past.” The work is a look back at the end of this era. Sabina was also curious to discover what would happen between two friends who had studied together and then moved apart; what happens over time and across borders? “I felt it was time to come back to Toronto in a professional context: as a choreographer. When you leave home and go away, you have an opportunity to reinvent yourself, leave the past behind, but, in this piece, I was interested in memory and in re-visiting my past self.”

Sabina’s “past self” included early training at Canada’s National Ballet School and three years at The School of Toronto Dance Theatre, followed by a year at CODARTS-Rotterdam Dansacademie in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. She had been offered a spot in the prestigious program in Rotterdam and packed a suitcase for an 8-month stay, not knowing she would stay for the next 12 years. Her year in Rotterdam was a “mind explosion”. She hardly slept, took class, saw every show on offer, networked, and went to openings, cocktail parties – anything and everything to make connections in her new home and with her new dance community. During “audition season” she went to 51 auditions … with no luck. It was a challenging time; European companies had to prove to the government that if you were not European you would have to be the best of the best of the best to get the job. She finally decided to call it quits and go home but had one more audition scheduled. She packed her bags, called her Dad to say she was coming home, planned to go for some good-bye drinks with friends, then went to her 52nd audition … and got the job. It was not just any job. She was hired by Artistic Director Arthur Rosenfeld for his company De Meekers Uitgesproken Dans. Rosenfeld was one of the original dancers for Pina Bausch’s Tanztheater Wuppertal. She had found the “perfect person” for her first job. “He wanted what I was good at. I loved humour, text, and theatre, and he nurtured that in me.” She stayed with the company for two years, touring and performing in 85 shows in the first season alone. “He was relentless, but it was great and I loved it. I was working with someone I respected, getting on the stage, and learning my craft.”

After leaving the company, she began freelancing throughout the Netherlands and other cities in Europe – big shows, small shows, paid/not paid, and in 2009 became a founding member of the MichaelDouglas Kollektiv in Cologne, Germany. The collective fed her choreographic interests and helped her understand how she wanted to build her work, her career. The collective approach emancipated her as a dancer/choreographer. “I want to drive my own car. I like to carpool, drive in other people’s cars, but I want to make enough car payments to own my own car. I want to be in charge of my own career.” Sabina hasn’t auditioned since 2010. She has made enough connections to know who she wants to work with and who will work with her. Among many other engagements, for the past two years Sabina has been the House Choreographer for the Schauspielhaus Köln, choreographing large-scale theatre productions. The work came about somewhat by chance when she was hired to dance in and choreograph a production with Canadian pianist, Chilly Gonzales. Gonzales had never met her but looked at her website and said, “She’s Canadian, she’s funny, she lives in Cologne where we’re working – she’s hired.” One connection led to another, and the Artistic and Administrative Director of the city theatre which was presenting the Gonzales production took note of her work and hired her to work there as a choreographer. She now teaches movement to actors, and provides physical training and movement direction. With Schauspielhaus Köln, Sabina has worked on seven major, large-scale productions, and is shortly to begin working on Hamlet.

Reflecting on her success, Sabina says, “It has nothing to do with how you looked in class. It has everything to do with what you can contribute – artistically, creatively. What do you share, what do you bring to the table? How you work with people is so important. Sometimes you need to snap yourself out of it. It’s easy to have lots of excuses not to do things. Don’t tell yourself you can’t learn a language in 30 days – yes you can. ‘Fake it ‘til you make it’ … ‘Improvise and survive’. A lot depends on luck, grit, timing, chance, and courage. You’ll have a bad year … you need to have a bad year. You gotta let it be. Don’t give up. You need to go ahead and make your own career.”

“I had done my 51st audition, packed my bags, phoned my Dad and said, ‘I have one more audition and then I’m coming home’, and then had my 52nd audition … and got the job.”

Sabina Perry is a Canadian born performer, choreographer, and teacher based in Cologne, Germany. She trained at The School of Toronto Dance Theatre and in 2004 she moved to the Netherlands to study at CODARTS-Rotterdam Dansacademie in the Netherlands. Upon graduation she joined the dance-theatre company De Meekers Uitgesproken Dans, performing the work of artistic director Arthur Rosenfeld and touring the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany. Since 2007 she worked independently with international choreographers and companies such as Suzy Blok, Amsterdam; Lucas Jervies / JACK Productions, Melbourne; Antony Rizzi / Mousonturm, Frankfurt; Stefan Dreher, Munich; Kalpana Raghuraman / KORZO Productiehuis; and Douglas Bateman / Dansateliers. In 2009 she became a founding member of the MichaelDouglas Kollektiv in Cologne. In the Kollektiv she has created work with Michael Maurissens / Douglas Bateman, Georg Reischl, Vivienne Newport, Stephanie Thiersch / MouvoirTanz, Prue Lang, Katie Duck, Stefan Dreher, Fabrice Mazliah, Martin Sonderkamp, Michael Steinbusch, Jared Gradinger + Angela Schubot, T.R.A.S.H, and the GOBSQUAD. In 2010 and 2012 she returned to the Meekers to choreograph two dance theatre productions for the company. Also in 2010 she was nominated for a “Green Room Award” and “Critics’ Choice Award” in Melbourne, Australia, for Best Female Dancer in the performance Human Abstract. In 2011 a solo was created for Sabina by Kalpana Raghuraman/KORZO Productiehuis, for the prestigious CaDance Festival in Den Haag. This piece was selected as one of the best new creations of 2011 in the Nederlandse Dans Dagen, and was selected for the DansClick 2012 tour as well as tours to Africa and throughout Holland. For the past two years, Sabina has been the House Choreographer for the Schauspielhaus Köln, choreographing large scale theatre productions with various internationally recognized theatre directors. She also continues to dance for Anthony Rizzi, MD Kollektiv, and Stefan Dreher, and choreographs her own productions, as well as teaching in companies and collectives.