Leeann is an international aerialist and dancer from Toronto, Canada. I first came across her work last year when I reposted one of her choreography videos on the Pole Purpose Instagram page. She has a very unique style of movement and I have loved reading more about her creative journey in pole dance. She speaks about the pole as a duet partner, auditory stimuli and her inspirations. Leeann is refreshingly honest, authentic and definitely relatable.
Tell us a bit about yourself. What was your journey into dance?
I started doing gymnastics at the age of four until I was about sixteen. I attended a three-year conservatory theatre program and once I graduated I had a lot of time on my hands, that is when I discovered pole and dance. I had never danced before, other than one year of very basic training. I started taking pole dance classes and eventually a teacher who I was taking a chair dance class from asked me to sub her class last minute. I agreed and it turned into a fulltime thing! It was a very happy accident.
When did you choreograph your first piece of work?
I have been creating in my head for years but my first big stage was with my best friend Karen for the Canadian Nationals. We were competing for the first time and worked together to create a four minute piece that won us our first championship together!
I really enjoy listening to people and hearing their stories. I find that talking to people and sharing creative thoughts and ideas is what really propels me further into a creative process. I also love music and sounds. I find listening very stimulating and sometimes when I listen, I will see movement or colours or waves or even notice my breathing pattern changing slightly and I can feel where the rhythm sits in my body and what that sound feels like and how it’s resonating inside me. From listening I feel emotions and hear story’s, even if the sounds or music have no lyrics. The more I listen the more I move.
How do you think your experience as a dancer/choreographer has informed your pole practice?
For me it is the opposite, pole is what has informed me as a dancer and choreographer. I used to be scared of the words dance or choreography. I would only refer to what I did as movement, “I am a mover” I would say. Now, I wear the title of choreographer proudly! I still think of myself as a storyteller and mover but pole is what has allowed me to find my rhythm and my style. I think it is strongly because I use and see the pole as a dance or scene partner. We work together and because I feel less alone on stage or in the studio creating, the movement and performance is less daunting. Me and the pole are friends, and I’d like to think that we move well together.
What is your favourite part of the creative process?
Every time, and I mean every time, it feels like magic when you start from nothing, from an idea and then little by little something wonderful emerges. The unknown journey, not knowing what the end result will be but staying open and responsive to what it could be. Also, the mistakes or the things you don’t end up using are sometimes my favourite part because without them you wouldn’t end up with the result you do.
What do you find most difficult about choreography and how do you overcome this?
Sometimes with teaching I find I can feel stuck and get repetitive or constantly think I’m not good enough. A lot of people deal with that thought “not good enough” but I keep going and those thoughts become quieter and quieter.
Who is your biggest inspiration and why?
My biggest inspiration is everyone who just dances and performs because they love it. If I see someone onstage truly living and loving what they are doing, I am inspired. I will watch my student showcases and be so incredibly inspired by them and their art. At the end of some of my classes I thank my students for sharing with me. I love witnessing people’s art and my students and other artists in the community are who inspire me the most!
What, if any, do you think are the psychological benefits of creating your own work?
It is therapeutic for sure and I believe that art can change the world.
You sent us “The Last Goodbye” as a favourite performance of yours; can you tell us how you prepared for this work and what your process was like?
My pole partner and I under the team name Double Pole Trouble recently represented Canada at the IPSF World Pole Sport competition and placed 4th in the Doubles Artistic Division. This piece was about loss and we titled it “The Last Goodbye”. Performing it was hard because we put so many hours into creating and training the routine together. Some of the first videos from our creation process are so different then what the end result was. I got to work alongside my best friend which is always amazing and sometimes the story would take us to an emotional place and movements would be influenced through that and some days we wouldn’t know where we were heading. At times it felt like we were walking in circles but I strongly feel you need to do that to get to where you’re headed. The process was really about creating something we were proud of and even though it was for a competition it was more of a performance piece to us.
Do you have a particular creative method that you work from?
Having an idea and then having the willingness to allow that idea to grow and develop into something else if that’s what happens. Authenticity.
What comes first during your process, the pole or the floor movement?
The movement and story first, and then I find a way to marry the two. I ask questions like “how can pole compliment this idea or them?”
Since creating your first solo, how do you think you have grown as a choreographer?
I am more fearless. I think less about what people will think or if it looks perfect or correct and focus on the story and sharing that story. I now try to be as selfless as possible, I don’t want to indulge in my own art but share it and let people in, in order to affect them with it.
Listen. Listen to what you really are trying to say and then say it. Only say it with your movement, let your body be your voice.
If you were hiring a dancer to perform your work, what would you look for in them?
Love, openness, vulnerability and the ability to take me on the journey with you.
Finally, what does pole dance do for you?
It allows me to live and love harder than I ever have before. It allows me to conquer fears and push myself to new limits. It allows me to meet such wonderful and inspiring people. It allows me to believe in myself and my art and share it with others. I love pole!
I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I did and that it reminds you to follow your own voice through movement. You can find Leeann on Instagram.
To learn more about experimenting and playing with movement, take a look at our Choreography Cards.