From our Artistic Director

As spring is finally approaching, we are delighted to invite you to ACCELERATION 2015, featuring the graduating class of The School of Toronto Dance Theatre. Over the past months, the inspirational work of choreographers, students, faulty, and staff will bear fruit in a dynamic, engaging, and thought-provoking series of performances.  Please join us for this exciting production.

In this March newsletter, we focus on outstanding students, faculty, and alumni whose work and talent have made a significant contribution to the artistic life of the school and dance community, both at home and abroad.

I hope you enjoy learning more about these valued artists, and I look forward to welcoming you at ACCELERATION 2015.



Patricia Fraser
Artistic Director

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Featured artists this month:








STUDENT:                                        FACULTY:                          GRADUATE:                                     INTERNATIONAL GRADUATE:

Shakeil Rollock                               Julia Sasso                      Jennifer Dallas                                 Lise Vachon

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Student Profile: Shakeil Rollock

“Seize every opportunity. If something is presented to you, don’t think twice; go for it. You never know what great things may happen.”

Shakeil Rollock is a creative and highly driven dancer with a contagious energy and a passion that cannot be denied. Currently in his third year of study with the School, he is hugely respected by peers and faculty alike, and really hit the ground running from day one in the studio.

Born in Barbados, Shakeil moved to Montreal at an early age before moving again to Durham, Ontario. His first childhood passion was reading the thesaurus, and it wasn’t until high school that he started dancing; he trained for three years in hip hop with a local company as well as studying ballet for one year. After this, the thesaurus was put to one side and his love for dance took off, landing him in the York University Dance program. He completed a year at university before he was encouraged to consider the School’s PTP program in order to expand his physical training, and gain a more thorough understanding of contemporary styles and techniques.

During his time at the School, Shakeil has gone from strength to strength, his knowledge and understanding of contemporary and modern styles has improved and developed, and his determination and dedication has resulted in exciting opportunities both in and out of the School. His focus is on becoming an established, professional dancer, and he thanks the School for giving him the support and training necessary to get him on his way. “The School gives you a good grounding and understanding of what it will take to make it in the professional world,” he explains. “There’s such great teaching here, making us both physically and mentally strong dancers”.

“Thanks to the training at the School, I know my options for the future are open and plentiful”. Shakeil is full of aspirations and ideas both small and large, looking forward to the near and not-so-near future. One day he aims to run his own company, regularly choreographing and producing shows, but he also has a drive to share his passion for dance within high school education. Immediately after graduation, he will go to Brazil for a month on tour with Newton Moraes’ Brazil, the Land of Tears and Soul.

Catch Shakeil in the School’s upcoming production ACCELERATION 2015 alongside the entire graduating class of 2015. Tickets available now!


Faculty Profile: Julia Sasso

Julia Sasso has been a highly valued member of the School’s faculty since 1996, when she joined the team as a guest choreographer. She works with the PTP students every year, teaches in the Summer School program, and creates new work for our mainstage productions.

Julia’s work and involvement with the School is invaluable; with a focus teaching improvisation and the creative process, she works with students across all three years of training, shaping and developing their choreographic skills. She works intensively with the third year students as Artistic Director of the Choreographic Workshop, offering them the tools they need to create their own works, covering valuable skills required for a professional and creative life. She thoroughly enjoys being a part of the School and admires the talented students whom she sees move through the program. “The faculty and staff at the School of TDT work collaboratively to constantly develop better, more efficient systems. We keep the artistic vision alive and the School evolves as the art of dance evolves. We’ve built a world-class reputation all from a tiny little church.”

Julia is originally from Detroit; her distinguished career began with scholarships to the Joffrey Ballet School and an apprenticeship with the Harkness Ballet (New York City). Her style is unique, developed from her curiosity and training in a variety of movement and performance practices including the Skinner Releasing Technique™, improvisation, theatre, voice, Pilates, ballet, and contemporary movement techniques.

In 1984, Julia began performing with Toronto’s Dancemakers and became the company’s Assistant Artistic Director and principal teacher. Alongside this, she has also choreographed extensively for the concert stage, theatre, film, and television – her work being impressively well-received across Canada, in the United States, and abroad. Her contribution to theatre and dance in Toronto has been acknowledged with eight Dora Mavor Moore Award nominations.

At the same time as starting at the School, Julia created her first full-length choreographic work, Sporting Life. Next year, twenty years on, this piece is being remounted by DanceWorks/NextSteps, and will be performed by an entirely new generation of dancers. Created by “one of the foremost dance artists in the country” (The Dance Current), this revival of her work is certainly not to be missed.


Graduate Profile: Jennifer Dallas 

Jennifer Dallas has had a truly unique career path, since graduating from the School of TDT back in 2005. Her work has taken her to almost all four corners of the world, and has included an array of experiences from creating her own contemporary dance company to touring as a dancer in an Afrobeat band.

Suitably, Jennifer’s journey into the world of dance was also off-beat; growing up in Calgary, she trained in ballet before firmly deciding that it wasn’t for her. The next move? To study emergency medicine. However, before long she was drawn back to dance and successfully auditioned for the School’s Professional Training Program.

Following her time at the School, Jennifer went to Vienna to study at ImpulsTanz, an internationally renowned Austrian contemporary dance festival, as a DanceWEB scholarship student. There, she met and worked with Nigerian choreographer Adedayo Laidi, who invited her to perform in Nigeria. When she returned from Nigeria (the birthplace of Afrobeat) she was invited to tour with the Juno-nominated Afrobeat band Mr Something Something as their solo dancer. Our very own accompanist Larry Graves was one of the founding members of the project. Jennifer joined them for four cross-Canada tours.

“Music is what I am most inspired by when I work. Performing hundreds of shows and playing shaker for the Somethings had a profound impact on my movement language.”

Each one of her adventures opens a new door and brilliant opportunities. She believes that the experience of travelling, (including cultural immersion), is key to understanding her role in society, and as an artist.

In 2008, Jennifer established her own company, Kẹmi [translated as: She takes care of us] – the name bestowed on her during her time in Nigeria. She commissions choreographers as well as creating her own work for Kẹmi (including pieces that feature graduates of the School). She still has a strong relationship with Africa, and has recently created a work, Ngizwise, with the South African company Moving Into Dance. This work is currently touring South Africa and Zimbabwe. Most recently Jennifer returned from a seven-city, two-continent tour of Idiom, her collaborative work with Bienvenue Bazié (Burkina Faso).

Completing a full circle, and coming back to where her adventure began, Jennifer became a guest choreographer and resident costume designer for the School six years ago.  She has created three new works for the School that share her global experiences, and inspire current students to look beyond the conventional parameters of a career in dance.

“There were two turning points in my time at the School and both of them involved teachers telling me to look in unexpected places as I began my career. Don’t wait for opportunities, make them.”

Jennifer has firm roots at the School and within the Toronto arts milieu. “Community is such an important aspect of daily life; I learned this in my travels. The School is the centre of a gathering of students, professionals, and dance lovers – a place to which I will always return.”


 Graduate Profile (International): Lise Vachon

Pat Fraser recalls Lise Vachon as a student at the School: “Lise graduated in 1997.  She was a very lovely dancer and beautiful young woman.  In some ways she appeared quite shy but underneath that shyness was a very strong resolve.  She showed a lot of initiative and seemed intent on following the path of an artist.  Upon graduation, she applied for and received a Chalmers Training Grant to pursue the three-year training program at P.A.R.T.S, the school directed by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker in Brussels, Belgium.  Taking the opportunity to throw herself into that world was the beginning of an amazing artistic journey.”

After her graduation from P.A.R.T.S in 2000, Lise remained in Belgium and began her career as a dancer, and at times as a choreographic assistant, creating and internationally performing the work of several choreographers. Among them, she continues to work with Dominique Duszinski, Michèle Noiret, Arco Renz, and Marc Vanrunxt. Having kept close ties with De Keersmaeker from her days at P.A.R.T.S, she became rehearsal director for Rosas from 2005 to 2006 and has since worked in various capacities with the esteemed company. She has assisted choreographers in opera staging at La Monnaie/de Munt in Brussels, L’Opéra de Paris, and La Scala in Milan. This past fall she worked on another major production at La Monnaie/de Munt as assistant to choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui for Shell Shock, his dance-oratorio requiem to the First World War, to music by Nicolas Lens and lyrics by Nick Cave. Since last September, Lise has been involved in the training program at P.A.R.T.S. as a coach and coordinator for the students. She is also advisor for a children’s dance program “Dancing kids”, run by Rosas. Later this season she will be dancing a solo, currently being created by choreographer Fré Werbrouck in Belgium. Over the past years she has also been developing her personal approach to teaching contemporary dance in different schools and professional situations. Her creative projects have brought her to choreograph and teach dances for “Bal moderne”, a participative public event, and she also choreographs on occasion for theatre companies.  She has created and performed her own choreographic work in Belgium, Canada, France, the Netherlands, and the United States. These works include a solo entitled bliss (2008), a duet entitled Sliding, as well as Elles à l’infini (2011), a creation for third year students at L’École de Danse Contemporaine de Montréal. In 2012 she created and performed another duet entitled ZONES. Her latest most important creation was having a baby girl, born in 2014.

We’re delighted to have Lise return to the School to teach and create a new work for ACCELERATION 2015. “It is a wonderful opportunity and an honour to come back to The School of Toronto Dance Theatre, to create and share some of my experience, in the place where I began learning some of the fundamentals that have accompanied me throughout my career path. I thank Pat Fraser for this invitation and for the generous support she has offered me during my training as well as in my professional years.”