Ross Aitken stumbled upon a career on cruise ships a little unexpectedly. A notice for a Royal Caribbean audition posted to the bulletin board at George Brown caught his attention, and along with the rest of his classmates, he attended the audition. While cruise ships weren’t an option he had considered for himself previously, Aitken went in order to gain some audition experience, as many students do. He made it to the end of the audition and was offered a contract with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. While he had to turn down the first offer in 2013 due to previous commitments, he was offered a contract again in 2014. This time, he took it and began travelling all over the world performing — a dream come true.
Aitken is originally from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, where he grew up as a competitive dancer, travelling around Canada and the United States to competitions and conventions. Upon graduating from high school, he knew moving to Toronto and pursuing a career in dance was what he wanted but he wasn’t interested in a four-year degree program. George Brown Dance was the perfect option. The vocal and acting training included alongside the dance training presented an additional appeal to Aitken. He graduated from the P101 Dance Performance Preparation Program in 2013 and has since built a career on cruise ships dancing in ballroom shows, becoming an aerialist, and taking on the role of dance captain.
Aitken’s contracts presented him with countless opportunities to grow as an artist and expand his skillset. Becoming an aerialist was never something he thought he would do, especially considering his fear of heights. However, when the casting director asked if he was afraid of heights and said he’d be up about 80 ft in the air, Aitken said that was no problem and jumped in — “I was just thrown into the deep end which was just beyond terrifying, as I’m sure you can imagine, but ultimately, was pretty amazing!”
In a number of his contracts, Aitken took on the role of dance captain, which helped him build up an incredible ability to think quickly on his feet, all of which now comes in handy as a teacher here in the Greater Toronto Area. As the dance captain, he held many responsibilities, the main one being holding the integrity of the shows, which can be between 40 and 50 minutes long. It was his job to re-block the show if dancers were injured or out. “Quite a few of those re-blocks were last-minute,” explained Aitken. In one instance, he was shouting directions to re-block while in the middle of a quick-change, to make sure all the spaces were filled in and that no props were missed.
Aitken has now transitioned into a teaching career in Toronto where many of the skills he developed in school and on cruise ships transfer over to teaching the next generation of performers. George Brown offered him the training to refine his technique and classes in vocal and acting helped broaden his skills to become a triple threat performer. His advice to students is to take those classes really seriously. While singing and acting can be intimidating, they “will really open up quite a few doors for you as a professional”. It’s important to try as many things as you can to broaden your abilities. “Just make sure you’re never complacent”, shares Aitken, “You can always work harder and there’s always things to improve on so just keep working”.