George Brown Dance Alumni- Where are they now?

Irma Villafuerte, Chris Knowles, Cynthia Macedo, Derek Sangster & Kathy Le; Photo by Casey Spector

George Brown Dance Alumni at the Dora Awards Ceremony: Kathy Le, Katie Couchie, Jamaica Fraser & Peter Kelly

The Dora Mavor Moore Awards (also known as the Dora Awards or the Doras) are presented by the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts (TAPA) on an annual basis, honouring theatre, dance and opera productions in Toronto. We caught up with 3 George Brown Dance Alumni who have been nominated this year for their work in the Dance and Opera Category.

Jamaica Fraser in Bluebeard’s Castle by Against the Grain Theatre; Photo by Dahlia Katz.

Jamaica Fraser graduated George Brown’s Dance Performance Program (P105) in 2019. Since graduating, she’s had performance opportunities through the Lofty Goal Project, run by George Brown alumna Elise Tigges and Alex Woodley and performed with Beats and Intentions for Nuit Blanche. Recently, she got into acting and has had great success; starring in a short film, Swimmer by Duane Crichton, booking a commercial with, having a TV appearance in Holly Hobbie and was selected into New York and Toronto Shorts. She did her first ever public reading with Pleiades Theatre; and the first production with Against the Grain Theatre for Dora Nominated Bluebeard’s Castle.

Peter Kelly in “welcome we’ve been waiting” choreographed by Rodney Diverlus (2022); Photo by Fran Chudnoff, courtesy of TDT.

“I am lucky to be versatile and multifaceted which has afforded me the opportunity to teach various dance classes/workshops across Ontario while also working on developing my own artistic voice as a choreographer/performance maker.”– Peter Kelly

Peter Kelly graduated in 2015 from George Brown’s Dance Performance Program (P105) and has attended Jörgen Academy Summer Intensives. Post graduation, they have been busy as a company dancer with Toronto Dance Theatre (TDT) for going on 9 seasons this coming September! Beyond TDT, he has also worked at SummerWorks Performance Festival in various capacities including roles of Festival Consultant, Patron Services Manager, and Volunteer Coordinator since 2016. He’s had the opportunity to work with The Toronto Dance Community Love-In as a Space Host for some of their summer programming, and with Dance Ontario as the Provincial Networks Coordinator for 3 years supporting, promoting, and encouraging increased sustainable dance activities across various communities in Ontario. Peter is the founder of New Blue Emerging Dance with some of his best friends from the program at George Brown Dance which aims to help catalyze the careers of emerging dance artists through carefully conceived workshops, networking events, and presented work through Guelph Dance Festival, London Dance Festival, Queer Cab (Buddies in Bad Times Theatre), Impact Festival, and the Choreographic Marathon (Across Oceans Arts), among others. 

Katie Couchie in Homelands; Photo by David Hou for Kaha-wi Dance Theatre.

Katie Couchie graduated from George Brown’s Dance Preparation Program (P101) in 2018 and the Dance Performance Program (P105) in 2020. She also attended Jörgen Academy Summer Intensives in 2018 and was a Youth Participant in Ballet Jörgen’s production of Coppélia in 2019. Since graduating, she has been freelancing as a contemporary dance in Toronto and Montreal. This past year, Katie has gone on tour with shows The Mush Hole (Kaha:wi Dance Theatre) and Sky Dancers (A’nówara Dance Theatre). As well as being in her first premiere production, which was Dora Nominated Homelands with Kaha:wi Dance Theatre. She also got to work with George Brown Dance faculty member, Hanna Kiel, in her company’s (Human Body Expression) mixed program show!

Charlotte Hellekant, Jamaica FRaser & Gerald Finley; Photo by Dahlia Katz, Katie Couchie, Santee Smith, Feryn King; Photo by David Hou, Company in The Magic of Assembly; Photo by Gabriel Cropley.

Tell us about the piece you were nominated for:

Jamaica Fraser: The piece I was nominated for is called Bluebeard’s Castle, directed by Daisy Evans and produced by Against the Grain Theatre. It’s a rendition of Bluebeard’s Castle by Béla Bartók, focussing on a married couple dealing with the challenges of dementia. 
Peter Kelly: The dance work I was a part of was called The Magic of Assembly! Privileging the meeting of artistic practices towards a less linear way to collaborate, the work emerged between Artistic Director of Toronto Dance Theatre, Andrew Tay’s conceptual approach to choreography and the electric movement of street dance (Punking/Whacking) artist Ashley Colours Perez, with everything set to the sounds of beloved local music duo LAL (Rosina Kazi and Nicholas Murray). Alongside the Toronto Dance Theatre ensemble members, the piece explored the magic created from the act of assembling as artists, and the irreplaceable experience of gathering to witness performance in the current moment. 
Katie Couchie: Homelands was a piece created and choreographed by Santee Smith for Kaha:wi Dance Theatre. For me, Homelands is about the longing of being in my traditional homelands where my ancestors once walked, danced and thrived before it was taken. It’s about connecting with our ancestors and the power Indigenous women hold and carry. 

“Throughout my coursework, practical experience, and performances I have developed technical proficiency in various dance styles, allowing me to perform and dance with precision and artistry.
– Peter Kelly

How has your training from George Brown Dance supported you in the industry as a professional?

Jamaica Fraser: Training with George Brown Dance supported me in the industry by having teachers who I could talk to and who were willing to help me when I had no idea where to start. A big supporter in my journey was Ryan Kelly; he helped me with agency packages, audition materials, and the list goes on. Nicola Pantin is another one who introduced me to people in the industry.
Peter Kelly: My training has provided me with a strong foundation for my professional career in the dance industry. I have honed my performance skills, including stage presence and the ability to interpret choreography quickly and efficiently due to the care and push from the rich faculty and how the program was set up for us as young emerging eager dance artists! In addition to performance skills, my training has also equipped me with the knowledge and skills to create my own dance work through the composition courses and choreographic opportunities that were provided as a part of the program. I am also fortunate to have gained a deep understanding of dance history, theory, and cultural context, which has broadened my artistic perspective and informed my creative choices. This knowledge has given me a unique voice and allowed me to contribute creatively to the dance productions I am involved in. Immersed in the study of dance history and theory, I’ve also gained a deep appreciation for the art form’s deep historical, cultural and political significance. 
Katie Couchie: I think the biggest thing about George Brown Dance in that it’s kind of like a buffet of dance- I got to everything. George Brown Dance also does a great job at brining working professionals to the school to choreograph on their students for the end of the year show, UNLEASHED. For me, this was a great opportunity to network! Attending school in downtown Toronto is also great because there’s so many open classes, workshops and dance shows to take in, to add to what George Brown is already offering. 

Jamaica Fraser & Gerald Finley; Photo by Dahlia Katz.                                                             Katie Couchie on tour with A’nó-wara Dance Theatre in Sky Dancers.

“My time at George Brown has also provided me with valuable networking opportunities. Working with faculty members, guests artists, and fellow dancers has allowed me to establish connections within the dance community. These connections have opened doors to collaborations, auditions, and job opportunities within the industry!” – Peter Kelly

Do you have any advice to share with prospective George Brown Dance students and/or recent graduates entering the industry now?

Jamaica Fraser: The biggest advice I’d have to give is to find a teacher or choreographer you connect with and ask for help when you need it or are unsure!
Peter Kelly: Embrace continuous learning, network and build relationships, cultivate self-care and wellness, stay persistent and resilient, seek mentorship and guidance, self start!
Katie Couchie: I think my biggest advice would be to just take in everything that the faculty offers you and know that opportunities will come. It’s all about being in the right place at the right time!

What’s coming up next for you?

Jamaica Fraser: Coming up next for me is a dance show in September 2023 with a heels company called SHE, choreographed by Steph Margaret.
Peter Kelly: As I enter my 30’s, I am looking for a different pace out of life. I am looking for a different relationship with my body and dance as a whole. I am always going to be “busy” with a career in dance but, I do want to start to be more intentional with the work I do. Finding slowness in the day-to-day so my relationship with dance is more sustainable as I embark on a new chapter in my life and career in dance. On the more practical side of things, I desire to start to slowly move away from performance and more into curation and producing of dance.
Katie Couchie: Next, I am heading to FODAR Dance Festival in Nova Scotia to dance with my friend, Simik Komaksiutiksak where we will dance in their work Anxiety and also create a new duet. Then I’ll head out to Ottawa to do some teacher training with the Arctic Rose Foundation before heading back to Six Nations for Kaha:wi Dance Theatre’s summer lab and our remount of Homelands which will be performed in St. Catherine’s in Septemeber!

Charlotte Hellekant & Jamaica Fraser; Photo by Dahlia Katz, Katie Couchie & Rumi Jeraji Human Body Expression repertoire in HBE’s 2023 Mixed Program Show; Photo by Drew Berry, Peter Kelly, Rachana Joshi, Purawai Vyas, Megumi Kokuba & Yuichiro Inoue for “helix”, choreographed by Arti Nundy for TDT’s Convergent Divergency (2023); Photo by Joshua Rille.

We are extremely proud to have partaken in training these dancers to go on to achieve incredible accomplishments; like being nominated for the Dora Awards.
Congratulations to ALL nominees and recipients!