Favourite local dancer

Supplied photo (The Art of Movement Photography)

1. Ella Steele
2. Dancing Gabe
3. Carol-Ann Bohrn / Jillian Groening (tie)

Since 2017, Ella Steele has performed with Rhythm & Sound, a Toronto-based dance company.

In August, Steele was commissioned to present a 15-minute excerpt of Mirror/Water/Doorway from the collective (in)sight at the Toronto International Tap Dance Festival. She says being able to present her own collaborative work on stage with live musicians and two other dancers has been vulnerable and emotional.

“The difference between performing someone else's work and being able to help them express their vision, versus me, doing my own work on stage, was a whole different experience,” Steele says.

“I was feeling a lot of excitement and normal pre-performance nerves ... but by the end of the show, when it was the last song, the energy went up a lot, and it was just an amazing feeling.”

Currently, as the co-artistic director, she is continuing to create the full-length tap-dance show with David Lafleur, based in Gatineau, and musical director, composer and bassist Leighton Harrell in Montreal. The show features three original jazz compositions.

Steele hopes to perform the full show by next year in both Quebec and Manitoba.

In the meantime, she teaches tap dance and jazz choreography at the Doreen Bissett School of Dance and directs her own pre-professional tap-dance company called Language of Rhythm.

“With tap dance being a Black American art form, it’s important to always have as much respect and knowledge for (its) history, (to) be able to teach it in a respectful way and be as authentic with it as we can,” Steele says.

“It's an incredibly unique art form. It's a lot about connection and expression and your own personal voice as an artist.”

This year, Steele is teaching students aged five to 20 years old. She is trying to find ways to do outreach and create opportunities for workshops and classes 

Published in Volume 77, Number 12 of The Uniter (December 1, 2022)

Related Reads