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Episode #8: Interview with the Artist


1. What is your name and name of your company?

Jannine Saarinen – Jay9 Dance Projects

2. What is the exact location of where you are based?

Toronto, Ontario

3. Tell us in 25 characters who you are.

Jannine created Jay9 Dance Projects to choreograph/produce dance that is expressive and character-based. Her work has been presented in many shows and festivals around Toronto.

4. Who has been the greatest influence in your life and why?

In regards to my life in general my family has always been a great influence on me as their love and support have helped me become who I am.

In regards to artistic influences it would be difficult to name just one as I have a wide range of likes and interests, but I could probably say that one of my earliest influences was Bengt Jörgen. The majority of my training when I was young was at schools where we had demos, not recitals, and where there was a definite focus on technique. I loved performing but it wasn’t until after seeing Ballet Jörgen Canada’s Romeo & Juliet that the idea of dance being more than just the steps really clicked in me. I loved the patterns that the dancers were making onstage, as well as how expressive their features and movements were – it was like I suddenly saw a bigger picture.

5. What was the last book or film you read or saw?

I am an avid reader and I love to mix things up by reading a lot of different styles and genres. Last week I read The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo which is a beautiful children’s novel, as well as The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut who is one of my favourite authors.

6. Tell us a little about the work you are performing at dmic/fac.

An issue that I feel is common among many people is the feeling of being boxed in. These boxes can be the result of many things; including stereotypes/prejudice, societal/gender roles, the expectations of those around us, or even by our own expectations and desires. Often times when you are having trouble fitting into one of these boxes it feels as if you are the only one with this problem – as though everyone else can find the freedom to move except you. Box Step explores this idea by showing three dancers learn a piece of movement each within the confines of a small square laid out on the floor. Two of the three dancers seem to be able to function quite nicely within these limits while the third just cannot seem to get it together. I drew inspiration for some of the piece from footage of Arthur Murray teaching dance, as well as from the classic Disney cartoon where Goofy learns to dance. It does, however, still explore the more serious side of the issue – A person can end up feeling frustrated, isolated and depressed when they are consistently unable to fit in with those around them.

7. Is Toronto a good place to perform in?

I think that it can be difficult to bring in an audience in Toronto; however, I believe that this is the case in many places as the arts can sometimes be a hard thing to sell. I would also have to say that I have had many amazing experiences performing in Toronto over the past 8 years. The Junction Arts Festival, Nuit Blanche, and Dance Ontario Weekend are a few of the most memorable where I have felt very proud to be a dancer in Toronto.

8. What do you do without fail following a show? Before a show, to prepare?

After a show I am almost always starving, so I usually go out and get something to eat. This is because prior to a show my nerves are often running high and I don’t feel like eating much of a meal.

When I am one of the performers in a show I always go over the piece a million times in my head so that I don’t need to worry about what comes next when I’m onstage. When I’m just choreographing, as is the case for Box Step, I basically try to make sure that everything is ready to go, and that the dancers feel confident about the piece.

Catch Jannien Saarinen and Jay9 Dance Projects as a part of the Late- Night Series – What you See is What you Get at the Betty Oliphant Theatre, August 12th and 13th at 11 p.m. For tickets call 416. 504. 7429. or visit For more information click here!

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