Saturday 30 July 2011

Experiencing So You Think You Can Dance Canada live

During the years when Canadian Idol was broadcast on CTV, I would take my family to Toronto each summer where we would watch the performance and results shows live in studio. It was a great experience. We became friendly with host Ben Mulroney and two of the judges, Jake Gold and Zack Werner. When Idol went on hiatus a few years ago, our exciting summer adventure came to an end.

CTV has a terrific media relations department and as Idol was winding down its run, they began communicating with me to promote their other entertainment reality show, So You Think You Can Dance Canada. I was paired up with Quebec judge and former international ballroom dance champion Jean-Marc Genereux for regular telephone interviews. When Quebec dancers did well, phone conversations were arranged. After Montrealer Nico Archambault captured season one, CTV had him on the phone for me the next morning.

Because Idol filmed during my summer holiday, it was always easy to get away for a few days. Dance really only got going in September, so catching some live episodes was pretty much out of the question. This season, happily, they began airing in June and basically took the old Canadian Idol slot. With the American version of Dance on Wednesday and Thursdays, slotting Canada on Monday and Tuesdays made a lot of sense.

Last week we did indeed experience the Dance performance and results shows, recorded before a packed studio audience at Showline Studios downtown. Tickets are actually free, but hard to get. People get in line early to get a space in the pit beneath the stage and the select few spots above. There are limited seats available.

The performance show, at this stage of the game, is two hours with commercials. Everyone is loaded into the studio early as the charismatic Josh warms the crowd up, brings some people on stage to do a little dance and sets out the rules and guidelines – when to clap and when not to etc. Josh also pops up during commercial breaks.

Leah Miller, the gorgeous host of the show, appears on the tower above the stage for the opening sequence. There is excitement in the air as the director gets the show rolling and the judges and performers are introduced.

The show we attended featured the top 18 performers, including four Quebecers - St. Laurent’s JP Dubé, Laval’s Denitsa Ikonomova, Montreal’s Christian Millette and François Pruneau of Trois-Rivières. They all did very well. After the taping, a CTV publicist brought us to the judges table where we met with Genereux and the other judges. Nico was a special guest judge on this evening and I was happy to finally meet him in person. When one of the CTV publicists asked if I`d like to interview a dancer, I inquired whether I could do so with one of the Quebecers. Imagine my surprise as she brought all four Quebecers out. You can read my exclusive interview with them on pages 38 and 39 of The Local Suburban.

I was happy to see the Quebecers all survive the cuts and remain in contention for this week. Christian and Denitsa, I believe, have a good chance of going to the top four.

Now a little bit more about Genereux. He began dancing at age 10 with his partner, and now wife, France Mousseau. Within six years the pair had won every regional and State çhampionship. In the early 1980’s they began dancing the International style of ballroom dance and won multiple competitions and all the major championships in North America, participating in 10 world championships as the first representatives for Canada.

Genereux and Mousseau turned professional in 1987 and danced in every major city around the world from Asia and Australia to Europe and America. In 12 years they won over 200 competitions. Genereux and Mousseau retired from the competitive scene in 1998; however, the two still travel all over the world to judge and choreograph for elite competitors.

Genereux performed in the motion picture Dance With Me, featuring Vanessa L. Williams, and the motion picture Shall We Dance, with Jennifer Lopez and Richard Gere.

In 2006, Genereux joined the cast of the American version of So You Think You Can Dance as a choreographer, and is back for the show’s current season. Genereux has created choreography for The Rachel Ray Show and is now a permanent judge on Dancing With the Stars France.

Genereux was also the lead choreographer for the motion picture Funkytown, and appeared in the tenth season of DEGRASSI as a dance teacher. Genereux is one of the organizers behind the Rocky Mountain Dancesport Grand Prix in Calgary, AB this coming fall, and recently started his own line of dance shoes through the company Dance Import International.

An avid artist and painter, Genereux has become well-loved by viewers as the judge who speaks from the heart and isn’t afraid to show emotion, but dancers have to work hard to earn a spot on his VID (very insane dancer) list.

To see what a special person Genereux is and how he and his wife care for their special needs child, read the profile which appeared in the last edition of Inspirations Newspaper.

Friday 29 July 2011

Betting on Aaron Rand Mike FM announcement

So Aaron Rand is telling folks via his Facebook page that he should have an announcement about his radio future by the beginning of August. If I were a betting man, I would predict an announcement that Rand and his pal Paul Zakaib (aka Tasso) will co-host a new afternoon drive home show on Mike FM. I have spoken to Mike FM officials for the past few months and they believe that signing Rand would put them on the map just as Ted Bird did for K103 FM.

Tuesday 26 July 2011

Live from Toronto Dance results: Quebecers still in hunt

CTV’s So You Think You Can Dance Canada (SYTYCDC) narrowed down its pool to 16 performers on Tuesday. Quebec still has four talented individuals in the hunt: St. Laurent’s JP Dubé, Laval’s Denitsa Ikonomova, Montreal’s Christian Millette and François Pruneau of Trois-Rivières. I was live on set in Toronto this past week for the two Dance shows. Please read my exclusive sit down interview with all four Quebec competitors in this Friday's Local Suburban, available online only at

It was revealed live on Tuesday after a contentious judges debate that Dwayne "BONELESS" Gulston (23), a Hip-Hop and Popping dancer from Toronto, ON and TEYA Wild (23), a Hip-Hop dancer from North Vancouver, BC, would be the next two dancers leaving the stage.

.The results were revealed after host Leah Miller announced the three couples with the lowest number of votes who then had the opportunity to dance for their lives. The 16 remaining dancers will take to the stage on Monday, August 1 at 8 p.m. ET on CTV.

The bottom three couples who performed their solos for Canada this week were GEISHA Chin (19), a Contemporary dancer from Toronto, ON and ADAM LoPapa (19), a Jazz dancer from Woodbridge, ON who performed a "glow in the dark" Jazz routine; YULIYA Zavadska (29), a Latin dancer from Toronto, ON and Pruneau, who danced a sizzling mambo routine; and "BONELESS" and TEYA who performed an hard-hitting Krump routine. Following the reveal, each dancer had the opportunity to dance for their lives before the judges. After a lengthy deliberation and heated debate, the judges decided that "BONELESS" and TEYA would be the next two dancers eliminated from the competition.

Opening Tuesday's show was a dramatic Argentinian tango group number choreographed by Toronto native and world renowned Broadway choreographer, Sergio Trujillo. The theatre-inspired routine featured the Top 18 dancers dominating the stage with tango duets and acrobatic stunts with scarves to the music "El Tango De Roxanne" by Jose Feliciano and "No Pregunto Cuantos Son" by Bojofondo.

It was exciting to be at the live to tape recordings. I finally met Nico Archambault, the season one winner, in person. See the photo at the top. During his season one victory I did a number of telephone interviewss with him. Nico served as a guest judge and he told me that it almost more difficult than performing on stage. He is highly impressed with the four Quebecers and likes their style.

I personally want to thank the extraordinary CTV communications crew, who really know how to handle media well.

Monday 25 July 2011

Meeting Quebec's SYTYCDC finalists

When Canadian Idol was on CTV, my family I would visit the Toronto set each summer to take in some live tapings of the program. It was an exciting experience to say the least.Well Idol has been on hiatus for three years, but CTV has another spectacular reality show in So You Think You Can Dance Canada (SYTYCDC). This is actually its fourth season, but for the very first time it began airing in June. That made it possible for me to pencil in a trip to Toronto.

There are 18 dancers (nine couples) left and we were among the large and enthusiastic crowd on hand for the two hour episode which was shown Monday evening and we will be there for the results broadcast on Tuesday. I continue to pull for the four Quebecers.

Following the competition episode, CTV's wonderful media relations crew arranged for me to chat with judges Jean-Marc Genereux, Tre Armstrong, Mary Murphy, Luther Brown, Nico Archambault and Mary Murphy.
That was exciting in and of itself. But when they escorted me to the stage to interview the four Quebec dancers - JP Dubé, Denitsa Ikonomova, Christian Millette and François Pruneau - that was beyond impressive.

The interview will appear in this week's Local Suburban, online at, on late Friday. In the meantime I am hoping that none of them get voted out by the judges on Thursday. In the photo above, the foursome are pictured with myself (far left) and Alex Cohen (far right).

Sunday 24 July 2011

Behind the success of Toronto's Broadway: Mirvish is king

So why is the City of Toronto such a magnet for Broadway quality musicals? You can credit David Mirvish of Mirvish Productions, who has spent decades developing such an international reputation.

I just saw Billy Elliot The Musical (pictured) at Toronto’s Canon Theatre, a mere block away from the magnificent and gigantic Eaton Centre. The place was filled to capacity, with 1,800 people in attendance. This has been the case since previews began in February. We stayed just up the street at the Grand Hotel and Suites (www.grandhoteltoronto) on Jarvis Street.

John Karastamatis, the longtime communications director for Mirvish, provided to me some fascinating insight into the Broadway style success his company has achieved in Toronto. While Billy Elliot gets set for its final show on Labour Day Weekend , still on tap are Tony Award winner Hugh Jackman, The Blue Man Group, Carrie Fisher’s Wishful Drinking and The Railway Children. Coming up are Theatre 20: Musicals that Fly; Private Lives with Sex in the City star Kim Cattrall; Chess the Musical; Two Pianos Four Hands; Mary Poppins; the Blue Dragon; War Horse; and Hair.

Karastamatis looks back over the last decade to two of Toronto’s longest running productions: The Lion King (four years) and Mamma Mia (five years). At that time, 30 percent of the Mirvish audience were made of Americans. Now folks from the USA account for two percent of the ticket buyer.

“Toronto used to draw from a marketplace of 70 million people who resided within a six hour drive,” Karastamatis explained. “Sixty million of those people came from the USA.”

This all changed, Karastmatis said, after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. “That was the first blow to our market plan,” he noted. “Americans started to believe that it was not safe to leave home. The American government began issuing all of those alerts and planted the idea that citizens were only safe on their own territory. Then came the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2003 we to deal with the SARS health crisis and went from a city that was booming to one that was empty. It was a difficult time for us. We had to ship Mamma Mia to Vancouver to keep it going and the Lion King only lasted another eight months.”

While Toronto and Mirvish bounced back from SARS, they then had to deal with the parity of the Canadian and American dollars. “In its heyday the American dollar was worth 40 to 50 percent more than the Canadian dollar,” he said. “This benefited us greatly.”

So how is it that the pseudo Broadway scene here is so successful these days? “We had to very quickly reinvent ourselves as a domestic tourist destination,” Karastamatis explained. “And it worked.”

I originally had intended to see Billy Elliot last winter, when young Montrealer Cesar Corrales (pictured) was one of the four Billys. He left the show in May – partly because he had grown too tall. Cesar was originally part of the first national touring production, which previously stopped in Chicago for many months. After moving to Canada from Mexico with his parents, who are also dancers, he studied at Canada’s National Ballet School. He has performed in the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s Madama Butterfly and Anna Karenina and The Nutcracker at both the National Ballet of Canada and Les Grands Ballet Canadiens. A member of the IMCO gymnastics club, he has participated in numerous competitions. He captured first place at the Coupe Quebec and appeared in Shall We Dance with Jennifer Lopez. He loves to play sports, do gymnastics and travel with his family.

In June, 2009, Cesar attended an open audition in Toronto for Billy Elliot The Musical, along with several others from the National Ballet School and a variety of other boys from Canada and the northern United States. After several call backs, he was asked to come to New York City for a final audition. Cesar describes what that experience was like: ““I was amazingly excited, because I’d never been to New York,” he told “But there was a little problem – my parents are Cuban, we live in Montreal, and it’s hard for them to get a visa. So I had to travel to New York by myself. It was very nerve-wracking at first. I stayed with a friend of my parents, someone I’d never met before. She showed me around, and it was a lot of fun. My parents called every night to ask me how the rehearsals were. It’s helpful to have parents that have been through auditions, because they gave me little pointers that were really useful.”

Cesar again had the honour of opening the production in Toronto in the first preview, the evening of February 1, 2011 and then again did the official opening night on March 1 in the presence of Elton John, who composed the music.

Set in County Durham, England against the backdrop of the 1984-85 coal miners' strike, Billy Elliot The Musical tells the story of motherless eleven-year-old Billy who inadvertently finds his way into a girls' ballet class run by Mrs. Wilkinson and is attracted to the grace of the dance. Without telling his family, who would prefer that he study boxing, Billy continues to come to the dance class, and Mrs. Wilkinson, recognizing his talent, encourages him to audition for the Royal Ballet School in London. Billy's friend Michael is a boy with homosexual feelings, and Mrs. Wilkinson's daughter Debbie is another friend of Billy's. Meanwhile Billy's gruff, conservative father and brother are engaged in a daily battle with policemen in riot gear protecting strike breakers. They struggle to get the family by with very little strike pay. The father comes to terms with his son's desire to be a dancer, as he becomes resigned to the realization that coal mining is a dying business. The musical gives more emphasis to the miner's strike than the film, and consequently its tone is a bit darker and harder-edged than the film's, but the ending is uplifting nevertheless, and the musical has many comic touches. The show contains language that may be too strong for young children.

I was excited to see actor Jake Epstein in the role of Tony, Billy’s older brother. For a number of years Jake starred in CTV’s Degrassi The Next Generatuion. He left the show to come to Montreal and attend the National Theatre School.

In Toronto, subscription and group tickets to BILLY ELLIOT THE MUSICAL are available by calling 416-593-4142 or 1-800-724-6420. For tickets and information visit

IF YOU GO: The Grand Hotel and Suites ( is located at 225 Jarvis Street, near Dundas. There are 177 guest suites with fully equipped kitchenettes where you will find a microwave, fridge, coffeemaker and cutlery.

There is also a fitness centre, a neo-classical pool indoor pool and two whirlpools on the rooftop garden, which provides a panoramic view of Toronto. It is definitely a convenient place to be when taking in a show.