Toronto is one of the most diverse cities in the world. It moves and breathes in its own vibrant tempo, creating a safe haven for artists of all eccentricities. Dancers of  all genres flock to this city to spread their wings – literally and figuratively – and together they make Toronto an even more beautiful place.

Jaime Martino  – Strangers in Toronto

  1. What is your earliest memory of dancing?

It’s hard to say what I actually remember and what has been told to me so many times, but the earliest I can go back is to a very specific memory of a ballet teacher asking me if I was paying attention; I must have been 3 or 4.

 

  1. Could you please share a bit about your dance training and aesthetic?

I grew up in the competitive circuit, which is a very specific area of dance. We trained in everything you could compete in: tap, jazz, ballet, contemporary – though we called it lyrical – hip hop, modern, acro for a bit. The emphasis was very much on performance, uniformity, and perfection, which had a huge impact on the way I continued to approach dancing and my relationship to it for many years. After I spent some time doing cruise ships I realized that the things I loved about dancing – the expression, the creativity – had been missing for me for some time. So I left that industry, took some time away, and returned to dancing as a creator with the intention of making works that focused as much on process as on product. It was a massive shift and it’s the thing that has kept me connected to dancing for all the years since then – moving from primacy of performance into exploration, experimentation, and developing a clear point of view has made my relationship with dancing much richer, healthier, and longer-term.

Much of the work I make now is grounded in queerness. That can and has looked like lots of things, including digging back into my own history as a dancer and recognizing how narrow the parameters for participation were (are). I make a lot of work that questions things I was taught from a young age and asks what is missing when we talk about or engage in classical forms of dance. I like texture, I like grotesqueness; I like to make beautiful lines and then break them or undermine them in some way. I like things to look ugly as often as they look lovely and I want the value of that ugliness to be centred in the same way that loveliness is. I want more: more bodies, more stories, more ideas, more collaboration, more risk.

 

  1. What inspires you as a dancer?

On a basic level, music always inspires me. Choreographing to a great song can sometimes feel like cheating: the music tells me what to do, I just have to do it. There’s something whole and pure and deeply satisfying about moving to music for the sheer pleasure of it, when you and the music are telling the same story at the same time. Nothing beats it.

As a choreographer, I’m inspired by tension and subversion: what principles are at play here, and what would their opposites look like? What am I trying to say, and how do I undermine it? I am endlessly inspired by watching other people dance, no matter what kind of dance they’re doing. I see a lot of dance of all levels in the city, and the inspiration that comes from the huge, diverse, vast community we’ve got here is endless.

 

  1. Why does dance matter?

Dance matters because art matters, because people matter, because stories matter. It matters because we’ve always been doing it. It matters because it goes beyond what makes us human, and passes into what makes us alive – humans are not the only animal that dances, and so there is something so elemental and visceral about moving bodies as a means of expression.

 

  1. In your opinion, what is special about the dance scene here in Toronto?

Toronto’s dance scene is huge and varied, and runs the spectrum from established institutions like the National Ballet to brand-new self-run companies like Political Movement. This is one of the few cities in the world that has high-calibre drop-in dance classes (a resource that should not be underappreciated! It’s one of my favourite things about the city), and we are generally very good at making our own things – there’s a real connection to DIY aesthetics here.

But the best thing about the scene is also the best thing about the city, and that’s the level of political and social engagement that runs through every day. People are interested, they are paying attention to the world, they have opinions and critical capacities and deep understanding of how social dynamics play out. It makes for amazing art, and I value it enormously.

 

  1. What are some things that you’d like to see change/evolve in our dance ecology?

I think there is room for more actively producing local contemporary companies on a smaller scale – companies that would fill a 300 seat theatre instead of the Four Seasons, for example. I think crossovers between theatre and dance could be gorgeously fruitful, so in general I’d like to see a continued blurring of the lines between genres.

 

  1. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Hopefully dancing, and making dances!