Noriko Kusama was born in Japan and trained in ballet and contemporary at the Uchibori dance studio in her hometown Niigata. She choreographed and performed her first duet at FIDA dance festival in 2005. Noriko began to work with Robert Desrosiers in 2007 and they performed in collaboration in a series of dance performances. Her latest performance is Take Ito Kawa at Your Dance Festival in 2016
Elise Tigges (choreographer)
Elise Tigges is an emerging artist based in Toronto, Ontario. Originally from Vancouver, she moved to Toronto after finishing high school, to continue her training at George Brown College’s dance programs and has since completed summer programs with Canada’s Ballet Jörgen, the Goh Ballet Academy, Colorado Ballet, and Alias Dance Project. While at the school, she has performed in productions of Unleashed, and had the opportunity to work with artists such as Ryan Lee, Sharon Moore, and Nicola Pantin. In December 2017, she presented her first piece through the George Brown Dance Ensemble program, having the opportunity to develop her work with current students. Elise currently works with Canada’s Ballet Jörgen’s education department, both administratively and in the studio. Outside of the studio, Elise has been working with The Dance Current since the spring of 2016 as a listing intern and writer.
Michaela Gobas is a dance artist based in Toronto, Ontario. Originally from Vancouver, BC, she trained with Pro Arte’s Catching Art Contemporary Ballet Theatre before moving abroad to study ballet at the Kirov Academy of Ballet in Washington DC and at Elmhurst School for Dance in Birmingham, UK. She has danced with Canada’s Ballet Jorgen and Ballet Ouest de Montreal and has most recently worked for Wavestage theatre company and Hit n Run productions.
Sierra grew up in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and began taking dance classes at the age of 5. At first she did only ballet, but gradually added many more styles including jazz, tap, modern, hip hop, and musical theatre. Throughout the years spent at her local studio, she took part in RAD and CDTA exams, provincial competitions, and conventions in various cities across Canada and the U.S. Sierra also had the opportunity to train at several ballet summer intensives, including Canada’s Ballet Jörgen Summer Intensive. It was then that she discovered George Brown Dance and developed a strong desire to study in Toronto. Upon graduating high school, she was accepted into the Dance Performance program at George Brown College, where she has spent the last two years training and working with industry professionals such as Hanna Kiel, Derek Sangster, Louis Laberge-Coté, Gadfly, and Bengt Jörgen. Now that she has finished the program, Sierra is excited to carve her own path in the vibrant arts scene of Toronto.
Alexandra Woodley was born and raised in Alberta, where she began dancing at the age of three. She completed her RAD ballet exams up to and including Advanced 1 and Grade 8 and CDTA jazz and tap exams up to Gold Star. Alexandra has also trained and competed in ballet, jazz, tap, hip hop, musical theatre, modern, aerial dance and contemporary. The summer of 2014 was the first of two summers spent in Canada’s Ballet Jorgen’s five-week Summer Intensive Iv. In 2015 Alexandra moved to Toronto to further her education in dance by taking the George Brown Dance Preparation Program. Upon graduating that program, Alexandra was accepted into the two-year Dance Performance Program, also at George Brown. Alexandra has worked with choreographers such as Bengt Jorgen, Hannah Kiel, Tina Fushel, Derek Sangster, Nicola Pantin, Patrizia Ferlisi and Susie Burpee.
Megan Hill trained at Canada’s National Ballet School, The Joffrey Ballet School, Jackie Kennedy Onassis School at American Ballet Theater, and was coached by Evelyn Hart. She was most recently employed as a Corps de Ballet member with Opera Baltycka in Gdansk, Poland. Other professional experiences include The National Ballet of Canada’s, The Nutcracker; Northern Ballet’s, The Beauty and the Beast; and Opera Baltycka’s, Pinocchio.
Courtney is currently studying Dance Performance at George Brown College. She graduated from the Dance Performance Preparation program at George Brown College in 2017. Courtney has performed in Unleashed at the Betty Oliphant Theatre for the past two years, work with choreographers Nicola Pantin and Susie Burpee. She grew up dancing and it wasn’t until she took a break from dance that she realized it was the path for her. After living abroad for two years, she returned to continue her dance studies.
Jenna, from St. Thomas, ON has always had a passion for the performing arts. She grew up taking not only dance lessons, but also piano and vocal training. Jenna is proud to have attended summer intensive programs at both Quinte Ballet School and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, and to have achieved distinction in RAD Advanced 2. Jenna is hoping to continue improving her dancing, singing, acting, and choreography skills next year in the Commercial Dance program at George Brown.
Julia Thrasher is a young emerging artist in Toronto, Ontario. Born and raised in Toronto, she has been training in various styles since the age of three. In 2013, upon graduating from the dance program at Cardinal Carter Academy for the Arts, she took her training further to George Brown’s Dance Performance Diploma program. Her time at school has given her the opportunity to work with various artists in the Toronto dance community including: Hana Kiel, Ryan Lee, Karen and Allen Kaeja, Heather McPhail, and Louis Laberge-Cote. Julia has performed in Pride Week Toronto and Dance Ontario Weekend ’17. She is currently teaching at local studios as continues her training and development as a contemporary artist.
Alena Loboda is a dancer, choreographer, and poet. She found herself enchanted with classical ballet when the art form challenged her to explore the beauty in every emotion, both positive and negative. This lead to her experimentation with choreography as well as a furthering of her education in the Vaganova method abroad in Perm’, Russia; Kiev, Ukraine; and Boston, USA.
Alena is currently studying poetry and creative writing at the University of Toronto, while working towards a specialist degree in Arts Management. She continues to use poetry as a tool in her rehearsal process as well as in her choreographic creation. Alena has danced for Columbia Classical Ballet, (Columbia, SC), Coastal City Ballet (Vancouver, BC), and currently performs with KulKat Dance Entertainment and Little Pear Garden Dance Company in Toronto.
Sylvia Van Helden
A C-Suite Executive Assistant by profession, Sylvia is also a devoted wife, cat mama, daughter, sister, auntie and, for the last 9 years, held the title of Co-Founder/Artistic Director, Choreographer, Teacher and Dancer with Momentum Dance Toronto (MDT). In 1981, Sylvia took her first ballet class. In 2003, Sylvia graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Performance Dance from Ryerson University. Equipped with the tools and inspired by passion, Sylvia went on to teach, perform and choreograph for various organizations, events and festivals across Toronto over the last 15 years. Sylvia is grateful to still be able to dance and perform after all these years, and is thrilled to be invited back to perform one of Jaime Martino’s pieces at the 2nd Annual Lights Dance Festival in Toronto. Please continue to support ALL arts in your community!
By day, Jaime is Executive Director of Tapestry Opera, but she began her artistic life as a three-year-old doing ballet in a bunny costume and she hasn’t stopped since. She has danced, taught, performed, and choreographed around the world, and she is endlessly grateful for the life that dance has given her. Though she grew up in the competitive dance landscape, as an adult she has been focused on contemporary dance that examines gender and sexuality, and has been making dances exploring this theme for a decade. In 2008 she was a founding member and choreographer for experimental contemporary company the Aha Dance Collective in New Zealand, a company that continues in various forms to this day. Jaime choreographs and performs with Momentum Dance Toronto, and she is so grateful to be a part of this amazing, supportive, inspiring company.