With a career that spans over 30 years, dancer, choreographer Kevin A. Ormsby has performed with various companies and projects in Canada, the Caribbean, and the United States. He is the Artistic Director of KasheDance, and works as an Arts Strategies Consultant. He is the Program Manager for Cultural Pluralism in the Arts Movement Ontario (CPAMO), Professor of Dance Performance at Centennial College and an Adjunct Artist with Dance Exchange in Washington, DC.
Dancer, Choreographer, Artistic Director of KasheDance, Kevin A. Ormsby
Hello and welcome to episode 39 of Sing! Dance! Act! Thrive!
How is your 2020 going so far? Mine has been great. I’ve been working non-stop on something special for you all. I’m so excited to soon launch the Sing! Dance! Act! Thrive! Progress Pathway coaching program.
I help musicians, actors, and dancers cultivate authentic connections with audiences and industry gatekeepers so that they can build a thriving career in the arts, without feeling overwhelmed or doubting themselves. If you want to stop letting fear and a lack of knowledge hold you back, I can empower you with confidence and profile-building strategies to propel you to the next level.
The performers already in the program are saying that its life-changing and that is so rewarding. To give you a hint of the pathway I can tell you that all 6 phases start with a C
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Today’s guest is the Artistic Director of KasheDance, Kevin A. Ormsby. He works as a dancer/choreographer and Arts Strategies Consultant. He is the Program Manager for Cultural Pluralism in the Arts Movement Ontario (CPAMO), Professor of Dance Performance at Centennial College and an Adjunct Artist with Dance Exchange in Washington, DC. He has so many titles and awards that I won’t mention them all here. With a career that spans over 30 years, he has performed with various companies and projects in Canada, the Caribbean, and the United States. He currently sits on the Board of Nia Centre for the Arts, Dance Collection Danse and Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts. Okay, that’s more titles. Anyways, I hope you enjoy it.
So what has been some of your career highlights?
Kevin Ormsby 4:58
I think they have been many through my career, I call my privilege I started very young in the field. But I would say when I was if I look at the Toronto or the Canadian aspects of it, because this is a Canadian podcast, dancing with Belly Creole at 16 to 24 has been, and was a very, very instrumental development part of my career. So I was already dancing professionally while in high school. And so sort of the independence that gave me to work with actually three companies over a five, eight year period, five to eight year period in the city. It meant that I had financial stability when most kids are probably still depending on their parents for allowances, for example. What that has done is I have a huge collection of also music from the 90s into the 2000s because of that. So those that’s one highlight where Belly Creole is concerned, I like to chart my sort of history in the city with the companies that are supported, where my, where I now live with my many titles in my body and also in my mind. And so that it also includes dance group performing company, which is an Afro Caribbean performing company that also danced with and then Caribbean Folk performers, actually, which is a group that pulled me into leadership before I knew what that was. And it was a great experience. It wasn’t at all traumatic. It was a space where I was able to actually look a lot at what was going to be my creative practice moving forward. I was the assistant to Artistic Director for that company for about five years. And that’s sort of what stands out as an accomplishment for me on the sort of Canadian side I think, at 24. What really stands out above a lot of the other work is dancing in New York and dancing in the states with Garth Fagan Dance. He was the choreographer The Lion King, but in his own company, and that came after university, not necessarily thinking about it. It literally just landed in my lap, and I jumped out of dancing in the States. It is offered me a deeper practice and understanding of my practice and how technique and training and a company structure supports the sort of company model that I now work with. And that was six years of amazing touring the world performing with you know, Wynton Marsalis who is a, you know, Pulitzer Prize jazz musician. Yeah, and also performing a Jazz at Lincoln Center when it just opened I’m doing an hour, two-hour work with 17 member Jazz Orchestra, you know, doing jazz festivals in Italy and performing on Rick stages and performing in Hawaii. And there’s a whole bunch of rich experiences that has really shaped my career in many ways. In that particular company, I was also the Registrar of the school. So it brought me into literally into the ways in which training supports the dancers, but also supports our community. And that was really, really magical. And I think one of my highlights in my accomplishment is actually speaking about working in the States.
Diane Foy 6:11
Right, yeah, oddly my listeners are international. Actually I have more listeners, everywhere else except Canada. I’m really big in France.
Kevin Ormsby 9:00
Diane Foy 9:02
And I had Akon on and oh my god the entire world because he’s kind of famous.
Kevin Ormsby 9:12
He is kind of famous and amazingly good at philanthropy as well. So I think that the new world of the arts is one where artists and or you know, superstars are philanthropic are supporting causes and are supporting other things that are beyond the arts itself.
Diane Foy 9:31
Yeah, for sure. So how did all this start for you? Where are you from?
Kevin Ormsby 9:37
Diane Foy 9:39
Kevin Ormsby 9:40
I said flashback. I’m originally Jamaican.
Diane Foy 9:42
Kevin Ormsby 9:43
I was born in Jamaica, actually started in sort of TV field there as a young kid, I was three. What I was actually on TV with Miss Louise Bennett Coverley. who was actually Jamaica’s most lauded folklorist, she’s a 100th anniversary this year.
Diane Foy 10:06
Kevin Ormsby 10:08
And I started at her feet. So I learned a lot of the cultural practices in that experience, and later moved on to doing music theater. In Jamaica, lot of kids are placed in like music theater programs. I did that with another organization called the kid stuff, which did a lot of cloud mining, dance works. And I’ve been in the arts since I was 3. That’s 31 years. I’m 44. So it’s been a long time.
Diane Foy 10:43
Kevin Ormsby 10:45
And just to humbled for those practical experiences. sorry, that is, 41 years that I’ve been actually actively in the arts. And then from there, I went to also all Boys High School that was really, really popular not just in athletics but also in the arts. And so we have a national competition in Jamaica called Jamaica Culturals JCDs called festivals. But it’s where anyone from any high school, any community, anyone who has a performing arts ensemble can enter once you’re an amateur and not professional company. And so that’s shaped a lot of also the sort of theatrical Music Theatre and drama, oratory practices that I also have in my sort of physical body and be and there, of course, did many plays was nationally awarded the dumb poetry before coming to Toronto, so I came to Toronto in 1982. Families been coming back and forth for a while. We’ve had, you know, family here for since the 70s. And yeah Toronto’s home Toronto has been home. Did it in high school went to lift to be Pearson in Scarborough. Many, many many popular people DJ Black Cat networks in the LGBT community went to was a colleague of mine High School. Come to Matthews Morgan actually was one of a dear friend of mine married, was married with Morgan, the famous poet who introduced me to dancing in not just in the in the Canadian Space, but also with a company in Scarborough.
Diane Foy 12:29
Kevin Ormsby 12:30
So did that the music was on the choir did drama, started a dance ensemble in high school with a teacher colleague of mine. Yeah, and, you know, it’s, again, the arts is all I know, I went to York did not do the arts at York. I did have a communications political science degree from York because I was destined to be a journalist, a writer on the in the arts.
Diane Foy 12:51
Right, how did that change happened, did you just had that desire to write or what made you go to university?
Kevin Ormsby 12:59
I think, you know, I had always had that desire to write and then knew that I was dancing all my life. And so that doesn’t necessarily that is something that I need to get formal training in because I was already trained. Part of the story about being in Jamaica was I also was a youth trainiee in the what is already in the mind the College of Visual and Performing Arts, which is our and the Caribbean’s national and English speaking Caribbean, particularly national or regional training institution for artists. So I was in the youth program was in the drama school of drama youth program and also in the school of dance youth program as well. So I’m very much trained in terms of starting out with ballet, modern dance and then actually coming to Toronto and getting a more African Afro Caribbean sensibility, which is quite hard to figure out. I would get that in Jamaica.
Diane Foy 14:08
Kevin Ormsby 14:10
Colonialism is real.
Diane Foy 14:14
You’re straight up ballet?
Kevin Ormsby 14:15
Ballet and modern dance. You know, since a complete switch musicality came into being when I realized that, you know, there was this rich thing around like texture and tone in music that came from the African sensibilities and how it you know, was polyrhythmic based. And a lot of that appreciation came from also being at York and being for the first two years in sort of the interdisciplinary type programs where it was able to, you know, go into into arts as a program and do stuff with dance and also Music Theatre. At York in terms of taking courses and I think that’s where my interest in writing primarily about the arts came about. Very much an intellectual it comes to research and stuff related to the arts. And I think that was a spark for me, then.
Diane Foy 15:11
Right. And so what were the first steps after you finish school?
Kevin Ormsby 15:16
I packed my bag and went to the States. Well, it’s yeah, that was the first steps literally.
Diane Foy 15:24
What was it that you really wanted to do at that time? Like what was you goal?
Kevin Ormsby 15:28
Dance was the goal and how even the whole state side of things happened I was going to apply for a grant I think I had reached a limit in Toronto where I think I reach the top the threshold of what it meant to be a black dancer Toronto.
Diane Foy 15:50
Kevin Ormsby 15:53
You know, having principal role with Ballet Creole working also for the organization and some administrative capacities and I realized that I might have wanted more, you know, and for me more wasn’t here. So I wrote a grant. And in the summer of 2000, I was successful with my first grant, and it was to the Canada Council. And many people said it wouldn’t happen because it was my first grant.
Diane Foy 16:18
Kevin Ormsby 16:18
But it happened. And it took me to both American Dance Festival which is a six week program in Durham, a Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and also then to Bates Dance Festival, which is in Maine. And so I was gone for 10 weeks. And during that time, made some contacts with Garth Fagan Dance, I had a friend of a friend from Jamaica, my first dance teacher from Jamaica. His friend was in the company. And then he said that they possibly be looking for dancers by December. That was August and by December, I did an audition. I was in a showcase here in Toronto actually. Went down to the audition, one day that’s all I had normally the the audition people for a week. And I was told I was successful and I should go home and wait for my US visa papers which came in January, and I was gone. That was January 2001.
Diane Foy 17:21
Cool. And how long did you live in the States?
Kevin Ormsby 17:25
Yes, I lived there from 2001 January through to 2016. September 2006, September.
Diane Foy 17:36
2006, and you were traveling most of that time?
Kevin Ormsby 17:39
Traveling? Yeah, I’m so New York Rochester wasn’t really home. It was of the years I was there. Probably we were home of those years. Two and a half, almost two years.
Diane Foy 17:49
Kevin Ormsby 17:50
Constantly on the road and again, because of that work you’re done with Wynton Marsalis in the late early 90s. The resurgence of that work was, you know, somewhat popular again because the Jazz at Lincoln Center was just being finalized. And of course, Garth Fagan dances the quarter for the Lion King. So there was now more traction for his work across the country. I think touring has changed a lot since then. I remember that first month, I was gone. I was in the studio for four days and I had a month on the road. You know, so I was even learning material while on tour. We toured significantly, significantly significantly.
Diane Foy 18:34
What do you love or indoor hate about touring?
Kevin Ormsby 18:42
I’ve learned to pack lightly.
Diane Foy 18:45
Kevin Ormsby 18:45
But what I love about I love the fact that you’re in different spaces and interacting with different people and getting different sense of what they see as the arts or see as really their relationship to the arts. But I don’t like it, is the fact that sometimes we’re changing spaces every three days.
Diane Foy 19:03
Kevin Ormsby 19:04
You know, and just as you’re about to get settled in a particular spaces sometimes when you’re just leaving, so sometimes, you know, you go to these beautiful places and you just don’t get enough time to actually enjoy them.
Diane Foy 19:14
Kevin Ormsby 19:15
And those particular cultures in those particular spaces that happened mainly in sort of the Western Hemisphere in Canada and in America. But when we went further away, because it was further away, hours wise, were involved timezone changes, you tend to have a lot more time to just, you know, maybe it’s a weeks or two weeks, we had more time to just enjoy those particular spaces and the cultures and histories of those particular spaces.
Diane Foy 19:42
Right. What was some of your favorite places to visit?
Kevin Ormsby 19:48
Hawaii. So we did a lot of Hawaii. Of the five islands. I’ve been to four of them. I loved and fell inlove with Leon when you speak of France. I fell in love with Leon. We did miss Alma dos. That’s what I will take that experience with me forever. We did five on course in in Lyon until we retired and we’re like, let us go. They were just kept going. And it was a great, great experience. Wow, wow, wow. This is good for jogging my memory.
Diane Foy 20:29
So this is your life.
Kevin Ormsby 20:31
Yeah, it was great to come and perform in Toronto and to perform on the premiere what was then the premiere Dance Theater theater stage. And to know that I was a Torontonian in this nationally internationally known company.
Diane Foy 20:44
Right, that’s cool.
Kevin Ormsby 20:44
That was an interesting period of time I enjoyed also the Czech Republic we were in our first which is close to the border with Germany. And that was also a beautiful sort of intersection of the Czech Republic, then Czech Republic and in Germany, architectural wise, Italy was also good. We did Peruvia.
Diane Foy 20:46
Kevin Ormsby 20:49
So we did the Peruvian Jazz Festival, which gets the craziness was there was that, that show started at 12am.
Diane Foy 21:20
Kevin Ormsby 21:22
And it was 12am on a raked stage, where you’re doing turns on the up a raked stage and then turning back down the stage. And what is this great again, there were jazz audiences. So they were intricately involved in that performance so much that at the end, it was three o’clock in the morning, four o’clock in the morning, and they were still engaging with you.
Diane Foy 21:45
Kevin Ormsby 21:47
You know, that was an interesting experience because I’ve never performed at 12am like when we were told the show starts at 12am. We were like what? But also Peruvian and Umbrian region are really, really magical and beautiful space. Rome, you know, some of those Greco Roman history spaces were also really nice.
Diane Foy 22:13
Cool. And so, from there, what made you return to Toronto?
Kevin Ormsby 22:23
I reached a point where I wanted to do more than just dance and realizing that my main focus and guard finger dance was going to be just dance. Primarily, I decided to come back home. I came back home and I was the assistant to the artistic director of Ballet Creole the crew for about two years and I realized that that wasn’t gonna work for me either because I’d gone away. And then six years had passed. And I was having the same sort of relationships that I did six years prior. And it felt like I wasn’t growing as much as I wanted to. And so I then decided to form my own company. And also then began working with where I’m now Program Manager talking about the titles of Cultural Pluralism in the Arts Movement, Ontario. So I wanted to just do more on the arts admin side, and then also on the creative side, and also research those particular moments in spaces and companies, we’re not going to allow me to do the to do those things.
Diane Foy 23:27
Kevin Ormsby 23:28
And that was a big shift for me, but I think a very beneficial one. Given that that happened around to 2008 2009. And yeah, I’ve KasheDance has been going since around that time.
Diane Foy 23:44
Cool. And what kind of productions Have you done there?
Kevin Ormsby 23:49
With Kesha dance, we basically work with a model called the CRP process, which is which comes out of the states where I’m an artist with a dance exchange. So this kind of creative process is about giving feedback and response and how artists can understand and use it. We use it in a way where it is informed by creation, research and presentation so KasheDance as a company. Every word that we do involves a series of research into the work material. That work also includes movement vocabulary from Africa and the Caribbean States. And would also sometimes include social activism. We spoke about earlier advocacy. So the work varies. We enjoy partnership and partnering a lot. And significantly with Christopher Walker, who is a professor at University of Wisconsin Madison. Our most popular work right now is actually going to be touring to St. Catherine’s. The first week in March, it’s being performed March 5th, and 6th at the first Ontario Performing Arts Center. And that work was looking at homophobia and misogyny in the Caribbean space or in the African diaspora space. It is toward extensively. Again, it’s our most popular work about maybe 5000 audience members across North America and the Caribbean have seen that work. And it actually was in performance in New York on the night of Orlando, which brought the currency and brought the importance of that work full circle, and brought all the idea of research around homophobia and potential violence against primarily male bodies, but also female bodies, in many spaces to light. So yeah, the company works, every work. Our next work, which is going to be premiering this May, at the theater center, may 28 to 30th is looking at basically reimagining what exactly is that the black and Caribbean influence and experience in Canada. It’s normally said, oh, you know, here’s a lot. How long have you been here? And for the most part, it goes back to the multiculturalism act in 19, the 1960s. But what is missing in that language is again to make us national dish, which is akin codfish is salted cod from Nova Scotia. So there’s a history of Jamaican Maroons that were actually sold into Nova Scotia as black people in exchange for codfish.
Diane Foy 26:29
Kevin Ormsby 26:30
So it’s really about what are we reimagining? What are we reimagining about black presence and experience in this particular country moving forward? And how is that deeply influenced by then the Caribbean bodies that are also diverse, that are also white that are also South Asian that are also Chinese that are also Persian and Lebanese? And so it’s a brilliant conversation about what is multiculturalism? What is the idea of culture that arrived? comes from the Caribbean space.
Diane Foy 27:02
Cool. Where you get your research, you get to research all this is really cool and you go down a rabbit hole.
Kevin Ormsby 27:12
Yeah, you do, you do. And, you know, you start to unpack way more information. And so I got, again, everything’s tied to research and I got a Chalmers fellowship from the Ontario Arts Council about two and a half, almost three years now, that was to look at cultural nuances from the Caribbean space. And to codify that into some of the language that exists in the company’s technical traning. And some of that research also will be a part of the show in the in the pre show exhibition, but yeah, it’s right. It’s like you see all these beautiful themes that you know, it’s just a subject I think human beings. This is such a subject for dancers as our musicians right hear the sounds and the sights and you know, so townscapes opening for them. And when you’re that curious about what they mean, certain things just open up. And that’s what happened with this part of the production.
Diane Foy 28:11
It’s important to know our history too. It’s like sometimes we get kind of caught up in what’s happening today.
Kevin Ormsby 28:18
Yes, yes. And we sometimes forget that that history has a longer connectivity to other things that have happened in our lifetime and will happen in other person’s history.
Diane Foy 28:29
Kevin Ormsby 28:31
And I love music for that. I just love the idea of music for that. One of my pieces I did a couple of years ago is called Recalcitrary. And I was told I’m a recalcitrant because I resist authority. Too much or I question authority too much. And that piece was looking at classical you know, we, when we hear classical music, we think of only a particular period, it involves white Europeans, but if it’s a classical period than it was a time it was a date as a chronology in dates. And so I was curious about what other music structures musical instruments existed during the classical period and found that the Kora Did you know, that beautiful majestic sounding Malayan instrument that also predates the banjo and the guitar and is influenced by that I you find out that the Er Hu which is a Chinese that one string Chinese violin did. You find that wind stringed instruments from the classical European period existed so this work beautifully through a another journalist and reviewer in the city, landed in my lap the CD chamber music, which was balika SoCal and Vincent Siegel and one a cellist one a core player and they made this absolutely beautiful album. And that album was basically the impetus for that particular choreography and for that particular piece of music.
Diane Foy 30:11
Right. And what do you think makes a good choreographer?
Kevin Ormsby 30:19
Wow, I was that’s a hard one. How many too understand that a good choreographer is one that listens.
Diane Foy 30:30
Kevin Ormsby 30:30
And the one that is intuitive and is one that actually are about the moments, not the moments expected, but the moments that arrive out of in the moment so that I used to have this big black book I used to write everything out. I remember being that choreographer, actually, speaking of the piece, we just spoke about recalcitrary, that’s how it was created. Everything about the Quran wasn’t mapped into this book. You know, and I was that choreographer very structured systematic choreographer for a very long time. Yeah, I’d like you know, I want this and I need to do this. And this isn’t, you know, this is what I want. This is what I think it is, you know, and now I don’t work that way. Now, I’ve realized that through my work with the Dance Exchange, that creativity should be fluid, that creativity happens in the moment when we least expect it. And so it’s how are you documenting and noting those things and that’s why you need to be really aware, when in those moments and actually having time and hopefully funding to stop and to unpack those moments because those are the magical moments. It’s never about the presentation for me anymore. It’s about the process.
Diane Foy 31:45
Kevin Ormsby 31:46
The process is where we learned that the things that will go forward in our in our creative practice. The performance is fleeting, it happens and it’s gone. And no two performance will be the same but the process can always lead you to a better performance.
Diane Foy 32:04
And what about auditions, any advice for either, you know, performers auditioning now or any experiences that you’ve had that stand out?
Kevin Ormsby 32:22
You know, there’s something about taking the front. There’s something about being in the front of a room. If there’s any advice, it’s never to go to the back.
Diane Foy 32:33
Kevin Ormsby 32:33
It’s the you cannot audition if you cannot allow yourself to be seen and to be vulnerable in that moment. I auditioned. So the funny thing is, before going to guard figured dance, I auditioned for the Lion King and it was in Toronto. And though for me, it was literally so that I could be seen by Garth Fagan. I never knew that would lead me two or three months later to his company. What was interesting in that moment is in conversation with Garth after while in the studio space while now is hired by his company. He said you appeared too weak to do the Lion King’s work. Now for me his work is way harder. That’s a regiment, sorry, a regiment and a schedule that Garth Fagan Dance that is about creating what I call a mercenary for that. Like you are ready to be in the moment and to execute the work at any given point in time. And I said it to say that in an audition, it’s important that some people step forward and it’s not a very Toronto thing. We’re in front of our Canadian thing. We’re very nice about it.
Diane Foy 33:50
Everyone kind of oh, you go, in front.
Kevin Ormsby 33:53
Yeah, yeah, no, you go up and I’m just, you know, and at some point, we’re losing the power that exists in actually leadership and stepping forward and taking and commanding space, and commanding control of one’s destiny in that particular way. So if any, if I have any advice for other persons out there, and it could be any practice is being the moment of taking space taking up space, though it might be scary and you might be very vulnerable about it is going to be one of some of the best lessons about either getting the job or some of the best lessons in how you actually navigate that space with somebody else. And that is the most important and valuable thing I could never contribute to any space is how am I actually learning from and contributing to that space? Because I’ve taken up a part of that space.
Diane Foy 34:46
I would think that’s surprising because I would think that a dance audition, everyone would be pushing to be at the front. It’s your shot.
Kevin Ormsby 34:54
It’s a shot, right? But I don’t think a lot of people in in Canada or in Toronto see it like that.
Diane Foy 35:01
Kevin Ormsby 35:02
You know. Yeah, I think there is. I actually was in my company last week and it was a practice with the National Ballet where I do some consulting work. And we were looking at some processes. And one of the processes that Brenda Zimmerman came up with, which is used to be a professor at York, was around the idea of using cooperation and competition together. So they’re not separate things. So you’re not going to I’m going to cooperate with you and then enable each other.
Diane Foy 35:35
Kevin Ormsby 35:36
We also not going to go compete and then pull someone down. So that particular exercises looking or concept was looking at the idea of how through mixed cooperation and competition, you are actually building a better environment to learn and to excel.
Diane Foy 35:53
Kevin Ormsby 35:55
And it’s you have to be competent competitive in this particular field or in any field in the arts.
Diane Foy 35:59
Kevin Ormsby 36:00
You have to start to look around and see others? If your age like you who are achieving and ask those critical questions, how they are achieving and comparison to? And can I achieve more. And you have to be very competitive in those moments because that’s where your longevity in a career stands. That’s where the work is. So then you can go back in and you can really question your work ethic and what you need to do to achieve and arrive to those particular spaces like others have.
Diane Foy 36:36
Yeah, I think it comes down to what I thought you teach them what I teach, as well as knowing what you want. Vision, you know, what, what is it that you want in this career?
Kevin Ormsby 36:50
Diane Foy 36:51
Once you know that you don’t know where you’re going.
Kevin Ormsby 36:54
No, you don’t. Right. And then you’re going to be in a cycle where you You’re constantly doing and doing more but not achieving. And then maybe not questioning why that is. Sometimes it’s just shifting, or thinking about shifting a little small piece of the puzzle. And maybe that lesson can come from looking at a competitor.
Diane Foy 37:20
Kevin Ormsby 37:21
I have a communications degree. So for me, I think the idea of branding the idea of understanding again, as you mentioned, what that vision is, and how that vision can be achieved. Is is also a part of that as well.
Diane Foy 37:37
Yeah. So one of your titles is art strategies consultant. What’s that?
Kevin Ormsby 37:49
So I use a lot of this the because of my work in advocacy and because I also do a lot of jury work for like the Toronto Arts Council on the Ontario Arts Council, the Canada Council, I do a lot of work into strategies that organizations from the I cannot mention being a consultant with the National Ballet. And though it’s a pombo, it’s about idea thinking in the arts. And it’s about the strategies that can lead to better organizations, more impactful organizations, or organizations that are really thinking about what community means. So that’s some of the strategies that I that I animate when I walk into my facilitations in certain spaces, it’s literally around. Are there other information out there that is missing from that particular organization are or artists? And how can they then use and implement those particular ideas as part of their overall structure as well? Because I have worked in advocacy because I’m really curious about like demographic changes. And or audience numbers, you know, they’re not separate things. So part of that would be to link the marketing link the artistic practice, link the community engagement, link the audience engagement, link all those pieces together in one. You know, looking at things like so how are you engaging with your social media? What are some of the messages that you’re talking about on social media? Is it only the artistic message? Because the artistic message will alienate some people? Because they go, oh, I could never do that, or oh, I would never do that. But if you talk about this sort of individual growth, because of the arts or through the arts, then you’re talking and connecting with more people, which potentially mean that you’re impacting more people, which potentially mean that those parts of a person’s might want to come to your show.
Diane Foy 39:40
Kevin Ormsby 39:42
You know, so it’s really about the strategies that is about human strategies as well. There’s a program at OCAD in design thinking, and it’s primarily for business. I like to think of it as design thinking for the arts. So the strategies that are created, I do a lot of strategy plan as well, for different organizations. And it’s literally just thinking about what you already do, how do you do it? And then how do you can think about amplifying what you do to create more meaning for others? And so that’s the sort of art strategy consulting that I do.
Diane Foy 40:18
Right. And so what are some of the questions that young dancers ask you, when you mentor? Are all those questions that they’re dying to ask you and what are the answers?
Kevin Ormsby 40:34
You know, there? It’s very interesting and I smile, the reason I smile is a lot of them are always judgment based.
Diane Foy 40:42
Kevin Ormsby 40:43
Other than my always, am I doing it right? Or is this what you think I should do? So that’s why I smile because I think to step back before I answer that question, I think we’ve created a system In a sector that is about judging, or persons thinking that the first thing they should think about is how good they’re doing at something, rather than how they can be better at something. So the questions I get asked are around process was to around, you know, what else can they do? What other aspects of the arts can they put into their programming or into their thoughts or into their work? But of the question is also around how do I as an artist survive in the field.
Diane Foy 41:39
Kevin Ormsby 41:41
Because it’s been becoming more challenging to actually survive as an artist alone. And that decision I’ve made since I left in 2001. To just this is all I do. So whether it’s in my communication experience, or my other experiences, it’s totally in the arts. But the questions I get asked is, how to make a living from it.
Diane Foy 42:06
Kevin Ormsby 42:08
And even there some of my suggestions is to not think about the idea of only being in performance. Some of the ways I made a living was that I did both arts education and community practice, as well as my professional practice. And so some of the ways I also experienced my work now is because of those experiences. So I worked as an artist and educator for the Ontario Arts Council in schools. It was a certification program, you have to go in and have to like do the certification and then create a roster of schools that wanted to have you come in and engage with them. And that was a great learning experience. So I often say to dancers, you know, think of the ways in which your dance can fit into many pockets of things.
Diane Foy 42:59
Yeah so is not just the one performing plain.
Kevin Ormsby 43:03
Performing in project based but can you do some research? Or can you work in admin? Can you work in a community setting? You know, what does that look like?
Diane Foy 43:13
Yeah, there’s more to making a living in the arts than just the performance right?
Kevin Ormsby 43:17
Yes, yes. So those are some of the questions I get asked the most, some of the other questions are around process and because I work with the critical response process from the Dance Exchange in the States, other questions that that I get out there is how to create sort of structures from that process, how to create how to, to get feedback, how to move, like careers forward or creations forward. Through process, you know, and I often say collaborate. I often say that, you know, there’s someone else out there asking the same question and so, you know, collaborate. See who wants to work with you and create a structure on how you collaborate. And that might be with musicians that might be with dancers that might be with theatre people that might be in as many aspects of the community as possible. Right, because, sadly, the dance community in Toronto is very isolated. And you have different genres of contemporary dance working in different spaces across the city. And so for many artists of many backgrounds, I often say, hey, go take a different dance class. You can’t like the most, the more versatile you are as an artist is the more you can actually make a living wage and or understand the work that you need to do as an artist. Or you could be doing as an artist.
Diane Foy 44:47
Yeah and branch out from rent your own community and your own. You know, if you’re just only hanging out with fellow dancers, you’re only going to grow so much.
Kevin Ormsby 44:58
You’re only going to grow so much, very well said. I also say that to my dancers a lot I said, if you look around you and all your friends that you see are dancers then you need to brush your teeth, comb your hair, put on something nice you feel good about and you need to go into a different community and engage with that community.
Diane Foy 45:17
Go meet some actors and musicians.
Kevin Ormsby 45:19
Someone else go meet some actress and musician some bankers go have number one a social life but have a life that is meaningful for what they others can help you to do in your practice. You know, I often get the comment also, you know, you’re always, I never see you in like sweats and dancer clothes I go because that’s exist in the studio. You know, if I’m going straight to dance and back home or back to somewhere else to dance. You might see me in sweats. If not, I’m in a quote unquote regular clothes, jeans. And that for me, is also I get it a lot about presentation. A lot about I get a lot of questions around how do you know, one communicate and present themselves in different spaces? And I often say to people, you need to learn that particular space.
Diane Foy 46:16
Kevin Ormsby 46:17
You need to learn how that particular space operates. And then from that particular perspective, you approach the space.
Diane Foy 46:26
Cool thats a lot of great advice. What passion project are you working on right now?
Kevin Ormsby 46:35
Diane Foy 46:37
What’s getting you riled up?
Kevin Ormsby 46:40
Well my show this May is getting me riled up because it’s our 10th anniversary this year. And because of the subject matter, because of also the idea of reimagining, so it’s called, talking about music. It’s called reimagining, reimaginings, long title is reimagining TPM. TPM is time, place and movement, but the idea came from BPM which is beats per minute which is this idea of how do you associate in here music and relate to music? And how do you understand that then as an impetus for for dancing and for movement. So I literally took the concepts of BPM and reimagined it around time, place and movement. So my show is coming up, it’s going to be it’s it’s probably the most out there, interactive audience show I want to have the audience dancing and clapping and competing with us on stage. There’s the pre show exhibition where all my research from the Caribbean space is in this in the in the lobby space, and it’s so it’s part performance. It’s part interactive, it’s part durational. And I’m really excited about it because it’s also a signifying an another shift in the companies, companies work in Toronto. I’m also excited about it because the work after that will be a solo work. So in 2021, I’ll be 45. And that will be 42 years in the arts, and it will then be also 35 years in dance. And so I’m doing a solo work, which is looking at, again, three different aspects of things. One is the African, Afro Latino, Mexican to be exact experience. One of my co choreographers happens to have his grandfather, the Afro Mexican. And there’s a huge history of like African Mexicans that is now being on unearthed. So we think of Latinos have been thinking of mainly a particular visual perception of what they look like.
Diane Foy 48:58
Kevin Ormsby 49:00
So that’s one working, it’s all collaborative. The next work is, has already started. I did this installation work by again, choreographer Christopher Walker, called the seaweed King and it was looking at is looking at sort of the the impact that human beings have on the environment on the oceans in particular. And that piece is complicated because it involves all these fabric that which like CV, and other this, this fabric emerged this king. And he’s really concerned about, you know, seaweed has in the in the history of the world, actually purifies the water of the oceans.
Diane Foy 49:43
Kevin Ormsby 49:44
So there’s a environmental context of that particular piece about how humans are changing those particular relationships to not just the scene but are also killing different species from the ocean. So that’s a really challenging piece because the fabrics actually Determine what you do with the work. It’s annoying. What I think a great challenge for me
Diane Foy 50:07
A new challenge.
Kevin Ormsby 50:08
Yes. Can’t be easy. Oh, no, not at all. So you know the whole world volunteen Martinez’s choreography, and he’s also the best director at Northwestern University is going to be looking at not just the afro Latino experience in terms of Mexican experience, but also what it means to be black in the North American context. So he’s taking we’ve taken images, we started that work, we’ve taken images from Harlem, you know, in the in the 1920s era, and we’re using a Miles Davis music, Jazz. I don’t love jazz clearly. And then the last work is hopefully going to be Mother’s Day Shakti which is a French Canadian, Toronto based choreographer. We did this work about maybe five years ago now at 10th house at in the salt pepper space, which was about some Mojo and some melva was a part of the radical riots in the 1970s. But him inciting the riot really changed. What are some of the conditions that now exist in the American penal system and the prison system in America. So this particular piece is very physical, and it goes into the sort of physical and mental intellectual space he must have been in to actually understand the plight of black Americans in jail, because he was also white, and to incite and elicit their support in actually being a part of the adequate rights. And so that work is it’s 19 minutes, so I’m doing three solos over a night of performance, and it’s three different solos. And it’s going to signal the next change and also where my company goes, I’m really excited about it. Because we’re now going to be working on smaller scale projects as well as large scale projects over the next 10 years. And so that’s the first of the experiments knowing that also the work that we’ll do in May, which involves eight dancers, musicians, composer and everything of that nature will also be going on at the same time. So those two things are, they got me going.
Diane Foy 52:39
Cool. Well, I usually ask guests what is their why but yours is very clear. It’s your soul.
Kevin Ormsby 52:51
It’s my soul.
Diane Foy 52:52
Yeah, it’s just part of you.
Kevin Ormsby 52:54
it’s been yeah, it’s all I know.
Diane Foy 52:59
Kevin Ormsby 53:00
All I know, and I think the why is, I think part of the why, for me, I’m coming to understand is, as artists, we should reflect the society we should give back to the people in society who might not have the courage to do what we do, but might want to.
Diane Foy 53:15
Yeah, that’s me. I dedicate my life to you performers. I’m not a performer but I just love you so much.
Kevin Ormsby 53:26
No, you know, and thank you for that. But I, as I like to say, I will get everybody dancing. I think we’re all dancers. The difference between between you being a musician or playing music and or dancing is maybe might be technique as we know it, but it might just be the way in which it’s been communicated to you.
Diane Foy 53:45
Kevin Ormsby 53:46
I love to that’s why I that’s why I love working also in community because you get to give them back their movement and their stories in a way that they never thought possible. This is not about pointing your feet or jumping high or turning. It’s a about how human movement this new these movements that we have in our bodies every single day can be the subject for choreography.
Diane Foy 54:09
Yeah, because if you if you just not think about movement and you just let your body go with the music, you never know what will happened, but you’d be good.
Kevin Ormsby 54:18
But I love dancing.
Diane Foy 54:19
Kevin Ormsby 54:21
You know, and that’s dancing. So, yeah, that’s my life school.
Diane Foy 54:28
Cool. So where can people find you online?
Kevin Ormsby 54:31
They can find me on line on Facebook. It’s Kevin A. Ormsby. They can find the company on Facebook at KasheDance. Likewise, I have a Twitter which is Kevin A. Ormsby, Instagram, which is also Kevin A Ormsby. And the company’s is at KasheDance1 on both Twitter and on Instagram and then of course website so the company’s website is kashedance.com.
Diane Foy 55:06
Cool. Any final words?
Kevin Ormsby 55:08
Now final words. Breathe feel dance.
Diane Foy 55:14
Kevin Ormsby 55:16
And also take time for self.
Diane Foy 55:18
Kevin Ormsby 55:20
Diane Foy 55:21
Wonderful. Well, thank you so much.
Kevin Ormsby 55:23
Thank you. I’m glad we finally got to make this happen.
Diane Foy 55:26
Yeah so great. And we’ll definitely keep in touch. I want to go to your shows.
Kevin Ormsby 55:31
Oh, no, definitely. I will definitely communicate with you when it gets closer.
Diane Foy 55:35
Thank you so much.
Kevin Ormsby 55:37
No, thank you Diane.
Diane Foy 55:40
It was so inspiring talking to Kevin. I love dancers. I know I am a dancer. I’ll own that. Which is not a professional dancer. But I can rock from Janet Jackson and Jennifer Lopez choreography. So anyways, for all you professional performing artists or working your way towards being professional performing artists listening you should join the Facebook group at dianefoy.com/Facebook. And for links and a transcript visit singdanceactthrive.com/039. And again, if you’re interested in finding out more about the Sing Dance Act Thrive Progress Pathway Coaching Program, shoot me an email firstname.lastname@example.org or hit me up on socials at Diane Foy PR. Till next time.
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