Recently, I had to do a little assignment on my personal dance ancestry. Highlighting the teachers, mentors, and general inspirations that led me through my dance and life journey thus far. The idea was to see how far back in the timeline one can go, to see not only who has inspired myself, but who taught and inspired them, and who inspired them, and so forth. I highly enjoyed this little school assignment and found myself re-inspired learning more deeply of three of the most important dancers in my life. So please, read on and enjoy a little history of Minuet Charron and those that have helped shape who I am now.
The styles that my influences mainly come from are Jazz and Hip Hop, both of which are black artforms.
The style of Jazz that I have trained most in is DJD (Decidedly Jazz Danceworks) style, alternatively –
vernacular jazz. The idea behind DJD style is going back to Jazz’s roots, acknowledging how it is a black
art and bringing back the grooves, groundedness, intricate rhythms and personality that it had when in
its prime that’s commonly lost in current and commercial jazz practices.
Hip Hop, and more specifically Breaking, emerged in the 1970s in the Bronx, New York. Breaking and Hip Hop culture is all about identity and personality, showing off your style above all else. It is rich in
community, the “each one, teach one” mentality, and the dance is primarily based in freestyling and
sharing your style in cyphers.
KATHLEEN DOHERTY HISTORY
Kathleen had been dancing from a young age, and the most important part of her continuing to dance
into adulthood was joining the Maritime Dance Performance Group, a company for young dancers to
experience dance from a more professional lens. Through this group, she had the opportunity to work
with professional dancers from around the east coast and beyond, as well as attend many professional
performances. Kathleen was exposed to a vibrant professional dance community in Halifax from a young age, and she says this was very important for her future development into having dance as a career.
Two choreographers in particular stood out for Kathleen; Jacinte Armstrong and Cory Bowles. They
shared their full creative processes with the Performance Group and were very active in the general
community. It was through Cory that Kathleen learned of DJD. Cory had travelled from the east coast to
Calgary to train with DJD back in 1999. He was accepted into their programming through scholarship and very soon worked with the company for years. One notable performance of his is “Juliet and Romeo”, where he had the part of the narrator throughout the performance, with a dialogue that he wrote himself. Cory was always a multi-talented artist, a dancer, actor, and rapper. Currently, he focuses moreso on directing than choreographing.
Cory mentored Kathleen and encouraged her to attend DJD’s summer intensive. She already loved their style of jazz before, and after the two week intensive she was offered a place in their professional training program. It was this offer that made her seriously consider the possibility of being a professional dancer, and while at the time, she was in the middle of working on a Finance Degree In University, but after finishing her degree two years later she moved to Calgary to continue her training with DJD. Kathleen did the program for two consecutive years and made many connections within both DJD and Calgary.
In 2012, Kathleen returned to Halifax and started her own company, Votive Dance. Kathleen confesses
she really just started the company because it seemed easier to receive funding for organizations. And
over ten years later, Votive Dance has become an integral part of the Halifax professional dance community. I first met Kathleen when I was 13 years old, and honestly our first interaction was quite embarrassing. I had just joined a new dance school and had been assigned to assist a jazz class. When I got to the class I introduced myself to the teacher, Kathleen, assuming that she had been told who would be assistant teacher. Unfortunately, I have always been quite short and unbeknownst to myself had been mistaken for a student in the class. It wasn’t until approximately half an hour of the class went by with me dancing alongside the younger children (most of whom were taller than myself), that Kathleen took attendance and realized I wasn’t registered for the class, to which I had to awkwardly respond that no, I hadn’t registered for the class because I was supposed to be assisting.
Throughout my teen years I continued to take Kathleen’s jazz classes at my studio, and very quickly
attended any open classes she taught around the city. It was such a unique style of Jazz she taught that I had never experienced before. I ended up joining a Jazz Program Kathleen started through her company,
where we trained in Jazz three times a week with workshops every now and then in styles that
connected to the roots of the artform (Swing, African, Hip Hop etc.). Kathleen has always been a person
I admire a lot, and I find especially as I grow older, I continue to admire and respect her work even more.
NICK “GENNEW” NGUYEN HISTORY
Nick’s parents left Vietnam after the war ravaged their country and arrived in Halifax in the 1980s. His
sister requested their parents have another child because she wanted a baby brother. When learning
from Nick, he would always speak highly about his mother and especially his sister, since she practically raised him. When Nick was around 14 years old, his parents divorced, and he had to cope with the fact
that he didn’t have a traditional nuclear family anymore. That year, the popular dance film “Step Up 2:
The Streets” was released. Nick’s older sister noticed how interested and enamoured he was with the
movie, and after recently losing their father from the household, decided to bring Nick to a local studio
to take Breaking lessons. His older sister would pay for his classes as their mother didn’t quite approve
of Hip Hop culture and thought of it as something deviant, moreso because of societal pressures of
having to raise two proper children on her own.
Nick became obsessed with the artform and went to a number of sessions run by his mentor, Toby, who founded Concrete Roots – an organization to help spread breaking and hip hop culture to Atlantic
Canada. Nick says he was always a slower learner, being the last to “get” moves in class and needing to
go over things more and more often. Although, this did not seem like such a problem compared to more academic or regular after-school activities. Breaking allowed Nick to learn, and more importantly create at his own pace. The goal was never really to “get the moves” but to instead break them down and put
his own spin on them. It was “an artform that helped many deconstruct and reconstruct movements,
patterns, and concepts without fear of being isolated or ostracized.”.
It wasn’t long after Nick started learning the art of Breaking that he was shadowing his teachers and teaching students and classes. Toby was technically his teacher and mentor, but in general it would
seem that it was his peers and students that taught him and gave him the most inspiration. In 2012, Nick won for the first time at “Roast The Coast”. Nick would go on to continue teaching at schools, local
studios, not-so-local studios (he had to persuade his mom to let him borrow the car so that he could drive multiple hours away to teach workshops) and host his own sessions whenever he could.In 2013, Nick became a student at Dalhousie University to get an undergrad in Health Promotion. Nick says that this helped change how he taught dance, as now he had a greater understanding of the body and its functions and could translate that into teaching movement. It helped him teach from a more comprehensive approach, and taught him that he needed to make breaking a more accessible and inclusive practice.
In 2016, Gennew created BreakSpace after Concrete Roots had disbanded. BreakSpace was mostly working in collaboration with an organization called Dance Nova Scotia and held sessions at their studios, he also ended up getting space a the Central Library in Halifax.
One Tuesday night, I happened to be at the library and saw advertisements for a free “breakdance”
class. I previously had no interest in Hip Hop, but for some reason I thought I would try it out for fun.
The next thing I knew I was attending every single session around the city, becoming one of Nick’s top
students, and in a year would win my first student battle. At the time that I met and trained under Nick, I was attending a rather rigorous ballet program and found myself losing touch with myself and my joy of dance. Breaking, and ultimately Nick, continued to assure me that I had a place in dance, that I could be
creatively and authentically myself. One of the biggest things I thank Nick for is helping me find my voice
and confidence. I have always been a very quiet and shy person by nature, but that would always hold
me back from doing things I wanted to do. Learning how to freestyle, cypher, and most terrifying, battle,
was so detrimental to me being able to be a full and loud person If I wanted to be. Nick always pushed
me out of my comfort zone in many ways, while simultaneously being respectful that those types of
things take time.
Nick continues to stay in contact with me and encourages me to pursue whatever I want to do, and that
he’ll support me in any ways he can.
ZOMI TOMBING HISTORY
Zomi was exposed to dance mostly through media and entertainment, not ever having any classical
training behind her.
The first time she felt that she really wanted to dance was when she was younger at a street market
with her parents. There, she came across a local dance studio performing and afterwards, the MC
announced that “any kid who would like to dance – take the floor!”. Zomi wanted to join in, but found
herself feeling to shy to actually go up. Once the song had ended, the MC continued to announce that
every kid who danced would be getting one free class to the studio. Zomi has regretted not going up
Big influences on her were dance shows that would play on the TV. Her favourite acts on America’s Got
Talent were always the dancers, one group notably called Rated Next Generation, as they were just a
few years older than herself, and she would imagine being able to dance like them. Another dance crew
Zomi was (and still is) obsessed with is America’s Best Dance Crew, or ABDC for short. It was these
commercial and street styles that Zomi would emulate at home.In middle school, she briefly took dance classes at a local studio. One year, she was a part of a competitive hip hop team. Unfortunately, she never felt as if she was pushed enough in class, and when she got to High School, she would stop taking dance classes and focus on her studies.
In 2018, House of Eights opened. It was a studio with all the styles and life and energy that Zomi had
really only experienced through the screen before. After doing a bunch of tests and quizzes and needing
a break from school, she took her first class at House of Eights, and it wouldn’t be long until she was a
Through House of Eights, she was able to learn from renowned dancers and choreographers such as Neil Schwartz, Keenan Cooks, Jake Kodish, Chris Knowles, Christos Tsiantoulas, and more. She joined the studio’s training program and was able to work on her performance and choreography skills as well as
foundational street styles. Through the program, she even had the opportunity to teach her own classes and develop herself as a teacher. There is no real “official” meeting of Zomi and I, I started taking classes at the studio and slowly we got
to know each other through dance. The two of us became connected and became friends and dance partners. We would steal studio space whenever we could to share and learn from one another, bounce off ideas, workshop choreography, etc. In the fall of 2020, we both participated in Bo Park’s PARK Program, an online program targeted for leading dancers, choreographers, and teachers in the industry. In 2021, we would teach our first collaborative class at House of Eights.
Zomi is probably my biggest personal inspiration for life and dance. She’s the main reason as to why I am still dancing today.