Syreeta Hector is a 2009 graduate originally from Quispamsis, a suburb of Saint John, NB. She trained initially at the Port City Dance Academy, in Saint John, and her teacher there, Andrea Scott, encouraged her to go into the Teacher Training Program at Canada’s National Ballet School (NBS). After graduating, Syreeta began to teach at Canadian Children’s Dance Theatre [CCDT, now Canadian Contemporary Dance Theatre], and one day she happened to watch Pat Miner teaching a technique class there. Pat’s class inspired Syreeta to attend the School of TDT, and after her graduation, she was taken straight into Toronto Dance Theatre, where she stayed for five seasons. While with the company, she performed in work by Artistic Director Christopher House including Four Towers, Pteros Tactics, Rivers, Severe Clear, and Vena Cava, as well as in Up until now by Deborah Hay, everyday anthems by Heidi Strauss, the work of Etienne Guilloteau of Brussels, Emmanuelle Vo-Dinh of France, and a solo especially created for her by Sook-Yin Lee.
In addition to her work with Toronto Dance Theatre, Syreeta has been tremendously active on many fronts since her time at the School. This past June, she completed her M.A. in dance at York University, focusing her studies on exploration into her cultural background, which combines Mi’kmaq, Métis, and African-American heritage. Her research looked at the relationship between Métis dance and Scottish, English, and Irish country dancing, and she did fieldwork in Vancouver studying with Indigenous activists and a Métis dance company.
While Syreeta was working on her Master’s degree, she also found time to work for Dance Collection Danse, as their Education Program Coordinator. She and DCD’s Amy Bowring worked on making connections with the Ontario school curriculum in civics, history, and social studies. They developed a board game which links dance to the curriculum through various prisms including indigenous issues, multiculturalism, LGBTQ2S, and women’s rights. The game was tested at several schools, including NBS and Rosedale Heights School of the Arts, and is now ready to go into the school systems of Ontario.
Also while working on her M.A., Syreeta found herself in New York and decided to audition for the Martha Graham Dance Company. She was thrilled to make it past endless cuts, to the point where the only others left in the studio were all dancers trained at the Martha Graham School in New York – a credit to her training at the School of TDT!
Syreeta has been teaching since her graduation from the Teacher Training Program at NBS. She has been a faculty member at CCDT for over 10 years, and teaches adult classes throughout Toronto. She taught for the National Ballet of Canada in their 2016 Summer Intensive; is currently a guest artist at Rosedale Heights; is on faculty in the college division of the Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts; teaches dance for non-majors at York University; and continues to teach at the Martha Hicks School of Ballet.
As a choreographer, Syreeta has set works on young pre-professional companies such as Felicita, CCDT summer projects, and Martha Hicks Contemporary Company. Her work explores the history and current characteristics of our country, and much of the research work she did for her M.A. has fed into her own creations. One of her recent pieces worked with potlatch practices that she learned about during her West Coast fieldwork. Syreeta received a generous grant from the Ontario Arts Council for choreographic research and development, and she is the Artistic Director of The Identity Dance Collective; her larger work will appear under this name.
Syreeta’s most recent accomplishment was choreographing and dancing in a new web series musical, Haunters, a fourteen-episode series. Jane Alison McKinney (2011 graduate) also danced, and 30 musical theatre performers from across Canada and the United States were involved. The series is now in post-production, and will be distributed digitally on the KindaTV channel in the new year.
Currently, Syreeta is preparing to return to New York in August 2017, to do a month long independent study project involving bodywork movement research with Irene Dowd and Barbara Mahler, as well as classes in the Gaga technique with teachers from the Batsheva Company. She has another project in the works, dancing for the thought-provoking Paris artist Julien Prévieux, in a fascinating installation to be mounted at the Blackwood Gallery, University of Toronto Scarborough campus. Stay tuned!