Special guest choreographers Apolonia Velasquez & Ofilio Portillo’s collaboration began in 2001 when they formed a Hip Hop dance crew called SayWhat in Montréal which developed into the Urban Dance repertory company Gadfly. We spoke with Apolonia about working with GBD, how students benefit learning from prominent choreographers and the new work she created with Ofilio Portillo.

Ofilio Portillo directing GBD students

Can you talk about how George Brown Dance has contributed to your work and experiences as a choreographer/dancer/teacher?

I have been teaching a commercial dance program for many years and I love sharing my knowledge in that department. It’s my first time choreographing for a different program in the same school. It’s really exciting being able to work with different people with their unique skill set and see how I can transfer the ideas I want to portray into their training and abilities while also being able to help them grow in the realm of what they want to explore.

What sets GBD apart from other training institutions?

I think what really makes it different is the core of faculty and teachers that are here; they are masters of their craft. George Brown Dance separates the courses here so that the teachers can dive into the core of technique and performance qualities for the students.

Why is it significant for students to work with prominent choreographers such as yourself?

It’s extremely important because it’s putting one foot in reality. Getting the chance to work with prominent choreographers is very different from taking a technique class or regular training class in the studio. Every choreographer is day and night. Everybody works differently whether it’s more improvisational in terms of movement generation or set choreography or whether you’re exploring a certain character or remounting a work. It’s very rare to be able to work with only one set of mind in the dance world. You must be able to adapt and be flexible in a way that you are generous as an artist. You should be able to contribute to the process but also be a sponge that can make the idea and movement come to life as fast as possible. The best way to train yourself to do that and be successful as a dancer is to work with as many people as you can.

What is your new piece in Unleashed about?

This piece that Ofilio and I created is a new one. We prefer working with prominent themes rather than literal storylines and that usually evolves in the studio while we’re creating. The piece has evolved into this idea of a social feeling, or image, of constantly being surrounded in urban cities such as Toronto. There’s always this reoccurring topic of feeling suffocated and feeling anxious living in these areas. But we developed the idea that rather than trying to resist or escape the surroundings, we try to seek comfort by working with others around us in the same situation and that way we can feel more at ease and grow together.

Ofilio Portillo directing GBD students


Unleashed 2018 performances on April 13 & 14 at the Betty Oliphant Theatre.
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