“The biggest thing I took away from GBD was to always remember why I’m in dance.”
Derick Robinson is creating a professional dance life that matches his individuality.
The George Brown Dance graduate and current faculty member approaches all aspects of life imaginatively, and his career is no exception. Derick shares how he has found a life of creativity in dance and encourages emerging dance artists to explore the diverse paths available in the performing arts.
Derick started dancing at the age of 15, only 3 years before he would join the George Brown Commercial Dance Program. Throughout high school, Derick was tracking toward a professional soccer career, having trained and competed at provincial and national levels: “I fully thought that’s where I was going to go. Then I decided to take a dance class at my school. Eventually I really started liking it and enjoyed the freedom it gave.”
By the age of 17, Derick gave up soccer and immersed himself in dance training by joining the Toronto dance company, Artists in Motion (AIM). “I was the baby of the group,” Derick explains. “It was a vessel for me to be creative and learn from people who were already in the industry. They really allowed me to be the unique spirit I was and turned me into who I am today.”
Among the AIM dancers was George Brown Dance graduate, Esie Mensah. “I had a lot of people tell me about the George Brown Program,” says Derick. “It was the only program at the time that had Hip Hop. It felt right and had everything I wanted.”
“I tell my classes, ‘I don’t care if you want to be professional, or if this is your hobby. I assume you’re here because you want to be better.”
In 2010, Derick began training at George Brown. His year in the Commercial Dance program was about rediscovering the joy of dance, something he began to lose after getting cut from So You Think You Can Dance Canada’s Season 4 as a Top 40 Finalist. “The biggest thing I took away from GBD was to always remember why I’m in dance,” Derick shares. “I never want to forget that again. I’m so happy I had teachers here who helped me get out of that funk. Above the training and technique, it reminded me why I love dancing.”
Derick’s passion for dance has only grown since graduating in 2011. Derick is weaving his love for teaching, performing, and choreographing into a dynamic dance career. “There are so many paths you can take,” he affirms. “There are endless options. You just have to be creative with it.”
Derick has taught internationally and is currently on the George Brown Dance faculty as a Hip-Hop instructor. He roots his teaching in the foundations of Hip Hop, emphasizing the movement’s unique history and technique. Understanding the importance of creative and encouraging instructors, Derick consistently motivates his students to develop their dance artistry and skill within a supportive environment: “I tell my classes, ‘I don’t care if you want to be professional, or if this is your hobby. I assume you’re here because you want to be better.”
Derick still values teachers and mentors who push him to reach his full potential. Currently, Derick is working with choreographer Shavar Blackwood as a dancer on the Toronto Raptors North Side Crew. “Shavar is one of those people who doesn’t settle, which I love,” says Derick. “I wanted to train with him consistently. He makes me work harder.”
“…you can create the life you want within art, especially dance.”
The North Side Crew demands more than just executing choreography, Derick explains. Audience engagement is a major aspect of the crew’s role, something that fits perfectly with Derick’s infectious energy. “You need a personality,” says Derick. “We’re the people providing added experience to just watching a basketball game.”
Looking ahead to next year, Derick will be focusing more on choreography. He created his first show, Camp Fire Confessionals, in 2016 and is looking forward to creating new works that encourage audiences to rethink commonly accepted ideas of success. “I try to plant seeds in people’s brains. I want to show people that we need to be more creative. People are finding a formula for success and sticking to it. There shouldn’t be a formula to dance.”
An open and imaginative approach has been central to Derick’s own success in the dance industry. “You should find your own way,” encourages Derick. “You can create the life you want within art, especially dance.”
Interested in George Brown Dance? Click here to find out more about our programs and register to audition.
Written by Victoria Campbell Windle, CBJ Communications Contributor.
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