Haleigh Eady’s journey as a dancer has arrived full circle at Hamilton Conservatory for the Arts. At the age of seven, she enjoyed her first onstage role in HCA Artistic Director Vitek Wincza’s The Nutcracker…and hasn’t looked back since. After training at the prestigious Alvin Ailey Dance School, and performing alongside such revered companies as the Martha Graham Dance Company, Haleigh returns to her roots as HCA’s newest Modern/Contemporary dance instructor. She also works for our sister non-profit HCA Dance Theatre as Operations and Events Manager. We spoke to Haleigh about her background, training, and why teaching and learning dance are rewarding endeavours.
How did you get started in dance? Can you tell us a bit about your background?
I had the fortune of growing up under nurturing teachers and mentors within the dance community in Burlington, Ontario. I pursued my first role as a young dancer, being cast at the age of 7 in Canada Ballet Youth Ensemble’s production of The Nutcracker with the Kiev Ballet created by Vitek Wincza. In my pre-professional years, I studied at Burlington Dance Company and Quinte Ballet School of Canada. Later, I graduated from George Brown College’s Dance Performance Studies program with a mentorship with Canada’s Ballet Jorgen. Developing an interest in choreography and modern dance, I moved to NYC to study in the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre’s Scholarship Program. I had the opportunity to dance alongside companies like Martha Graham Dance Company and Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet as well as performing roles for a vast array of productions with artists such as Darrell Grand Moultrie, Sidra Bell, David Wilson, Hanna Kiel, Malgorzata Nowacka and many others.
After I returned to Canada, I continued as a freelance dancer, guest artist and choreographer for various tv shows and movies on the Disney Channel, and dancer for the Toronto Blue Jays.
In 2018, I continued my education at Humber College in the post-graduate program for Arts and Cultural Management, where I interned with Canada’s most boundary pushing dance companies and festivals such as the Dora Award-winning company Red Sky Performance as well as the Fall for Dance North Festival. Currently, I’m exploring my own choreographic works and teach Modern and Contemporary classes at HCA. I also manage HCA Dance Theatre, the Conservatory’s charitable organization, which specializes in community dance events and pre-professional workshops.
You graduated from the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre’s International Scholarship Program in NYC. What drew you to that school and what did you learn from your experience there?
I loved the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre for many years before I auditioned. I watched the company perform when they came to Toronto; the passion and energy was unlike anything I had seen before. I auditioned for their summer and certificate programs, and ended up doing a secondary audition after my first semester, later being accepted into the Scholarship Program. I was one of about 32 students in the program and one of three from Canada! It was the most challenging time of my life, but the most formative. The classes, exposure, auditions, 12-hour days, rehearsals, performances and many other amazing opportunities while living in NYC was a dream come true – but it also took an incredible amount of focus and determination.
We took almost every class you could imagine, from West African, Ballet & Pointe, Horton, Improv, Choreography, Graham, Limon, Jazz, Contemporary, Vocal, Musical Theatre, Hip Hop, etc. The school gives you every opportunity to try different styles of dance and learn from the best of the best. I will always cherish the bonds and connections I made there and still have today, as they made me who I am.
Can you describe a moment in your dance career that has been particularly special for you?
Performing ‘Steps in the Street’ from Martha Graham’s Chronicle was one of the most special moments for me; it is an iconic piece that transcends the bounds of time. Working with Darrell Grand Moultrie at Ailey, for the piece ‘Voices of the Visceral,’ was also an incredibly emotional and intense experience – from the beginning phases to performing onstage.
You teach Modern Choreography, which gives students the tools to create their very own work. What are your plans for the class this year? What can students look forward to?
For the first part of the term, we are focusing on guided improvisation and learning the tools and steps to creating solo work. Each student will complete a solo piece at the end of this term that they have created, reworked and refined through one-on-one sessions. We are planning on creating a video project so the students have a chance to safely perform their work for families and peers.
Adult Contemporary also begins in January. For adults who have never done dance before and are a little intimidated, why should they take the plunge and give it a try?
Contemporary is about self-expression, creativity and movement. Just like with any class, the technical aspect of the adult contemporary class will progress along with the learners. If you’re interested in taking the class, come take a trial class and dance your Tuesday night away! It is more about being brave and having a willingness to learn – the technique will come as time goes on!
What’s the most rewarding aspect of teaching dance?
Seeing my students grow! I love to watch dancers push themselves and achieve their own goals in dance, whether it’s “I want to get better at jumping” or “I want to feel more comfortable with improv.” I think it’s really important for me to know what those goals are and be a resource to them to help students get there.
What’s your teaching philosophy?
Dance is not about perfection! It’s about intention, passion, creativity, perseverance and practice. Dancers are creative people who have a gift of movement; if you intend to use it then you are already achieving the first step! When it comes to technique, practice and repetition are key elements but you also need passion and creativity to make the elements come to life. As Martha Graham once said, “it is the performance of a dedicated precise set of acts, physical or intellectual, from which comes shape of achievement, a sense of one’s being, a satisfaction of spirit.”
Why is dance education important?
Dance is a way to connect to ourselves and our own individual creativity. Just like life, the choreography/technique we do may change as we grow older but the principles remain the same. Dance education is more important now than ever because our world is changing rapidly, and there is a need for safe spaces for people to simply express themselves. Dance is a part of life and has been for thousands of years. Those who take part in classes, no matter what level of training, will leave with a new sense of confidence, better understanding of themselves and a passion for the art.
Interested in taking class with Haleigh? Visit our Dance Department page for registration information, or contact us for details at info[at]hcarts.ca or 905-528-4020.