New Crew

An energetic new dance group will make its debut this weekend in an unusual locale.

Instead of a formal stage or a black-box theatre, the Tough Love Dance Crew will give its first official performance in a Whitehorse cocktail lounge.

“I always felt like entertainment in Whitehorse was lacking a little bit,” explains Tough Love’s artistic director, Shona Wheeler.

“Everyone gets so excited at Rendezvous when the can-can dancers come and dance around the bars. It’s a different, refreshing form of entertainment. I thought it would be nice to create a show that would appeal to that scene.”

Wheeler, who describes herself as a stay-at-home Mom, has been teaching at the Northern Lights School of Dance for about 10 years.

Starting her own summer troupe, she says, is a way to branch out and explore a new kind of choreography.

“It’s a lot of ideas I’ve wanted to do, and a lot of music I’ve wanted to use. So it’s a different type of choreography for me. It’s coming from me, the real stuff that I’ve always been wanting to do.”

Many of the eight dancers Wheeler has recruited for Tough Love are former students of hers at Northern Lights.

“A lot of them were quite small when I started teaching them and now they’re 18, 19 years old,” she says. “So it’s kind of nice to do something together all of us, and create dances and do stuff that is creative and unique.”

When Wheeler first approached local club owners about adding dance to their entertainment menu, she was surprised by the positive reception.

“We’re not charging anything; it’s just something we want to do. We want to dance, and we’re happy that they’re willing to let us come and perform at their clubs, and taking a bit of a risk with us,” she says.

“And they’re kind of excited, too, because it brings people into their club, or their bar.”

But don’t expect a diet of dying swans or leaping fauns as you nurse your evening beer.

Wheeler says the group will offer a “mish-mash” of dance forms, some of which are still evolving.

“We focus more on jazz, hip hop, a bunch of random, different stuff. We’re probably going to do a country gumboot dance at some point this summer,” she says.

“One of our pieces is a hip hop adagio. It goes from hip hop into kind of ballet-contemporary, then back into hip hop, and then back into contemporary. It’s definitely a mish-mash.”

Another is a burlesque-like number, performed in high heels. And then, there’s the hip hop chair piece.

“We do a bunch of acrobatic, kind of gymnastic stuff mixed in with the hip hop; it’s like an aerobic, gymnastic hip hop piece. We’ve definitely just thrown it all in.”

Besides its eclectic approach to dance genres, Tough Love doesn’t intend to restrict its performance venues to clubs and bars.

“We’re performing randomly around town. In the middle of a Sunday afternoon in front of Elijah Smith, we’ll just bring a ghetto blaster, just dance. Weddings. It doesn’t have to be anything formal. We just want to dance,” Wheeler repeats.

“That’s one of the reasons we want to have a dynamic mixture of different styles of dances, hopefully to appeal to everyone.”

As artistic director, Wheeler is responsible for most of the crew’s choreography, but favours a collective approach to developing performance numbers.

“I recruited the girls that I did for a reason, because I knew that they are all strong performers and they all have a lot of vision and ideas and a lot of material to use. I feel like just my ideas alone aren’t as great as putting them all together,” she says.

Later this summer, the crew will also perform some jazz pieces choreographed by another respected local dance instructor, Dale Cooper.

Tough Love Dance Crew will make its debut Saturday, July 2 at the Town and Mountain Club (formerly Lizard’s Lounge) at 10:30 pm.

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