Kaiya Lee's Eternal Dedication to Dance

Kaiya Lee has performed in CCDT Company productions since her very first season as a Young Apprentice, having danced in Carol Anderson's Nowell Sing We for many WinterSong productions prior to joining the full Company. Nowadays, this 15-year-old is a grade 10 dance major at Earl Haig Secondary School, in her third season in CCDT's Company, and showing no signs of slowing down as she continues to propel herself toward her future career as a dance professional.

Kaiya Lee, front, in Against the Dark by Colin Connor. Photo by David Hou.

What influenced and/or inspired you to audition for the company?

I started dancing at CCDT at the at the age of 7. My modern teacher's assistant, who was an alumna of the CCDT company had recommended that I audition for [the Young Apprentice Program]. With that recommendation I went to watch CCDT's Turning 30 performance by the company. That inspired me to join YAP so I could potentially become one of those amazing dancers I saw on stage.

I've now been dancing with CCDT for 8 years. I trained in the Young Apprentice Program for 2 years then got into the Core Apprentice Program at the age of 11. I studied in Core for 2 years and got accepted to Company Apprenticeship in grade 8. I stayed as an Apprentice for one year then the next year I got into the Company.

Is there a particular piece you are most excited to be a part of this season? What makes it most exciting to you?

I'm very excited to be part of Nicole Caruana's new piece. Her choreography and style is influenced by Gaga training and technique. I had very little knowledge of Gaga; Nicole's creative process has taught me and been valuable to me as a dancer. Learning new ways of moving was exciting to experience. This season's show Light Years will premiere her work and I am very excited to showcase of how much I've learnt of this new Gaga style.

What is your favourite piece you have performed in your history with CCDT? Why is it exceptional to you?

My favourite piece I've performed is RESET by Roderick George. The style of his piece is Hip Hop Voguing as well as technical ballet interpretations within. This style of dance is my strength and has enhanced a strong side of me that allowed me to have a great time on stage.

Are there any choreographers, teachers, guest teachers or guest artists you have worked with at CCDT who have been greatly influential on your training and/or growth as a dancer and artist?

Colin Connor is the Artistic Director of the Limón Dance Company and came back to CCDT to work on his choreography Against The Dark. From spending time with Colin Connor I soon learned the advice he had given me was valuable and added to my knowledge of dance. He inspired me to see new ways to move as well as how important it was to dance with the dancers around me.

Kaiya, front left, at age 12 with members of CCDT's Company in The Winged by José Limón. Photo by David Hou.

What do you enjoy most about touring?

Touring is where all my personal favourite memories are created. I always know I can have a good time going on tour with my CCDT family. Spending time with each other allows us to get closer as a company and family. Going out, learning more about each other, and being around positive energy is something I can never get enough of. I also enjoy dancing on different stages and environments. This experience allows me to learn a great lesson on how to adapt to different spaces as we tour all across Canada.

How do you do your best to balance the training and performance demands of CCDT with school, family commitments, and the rest of your life?

Balancing my life with CCDT's demands was definitely a struggle at first. I soon learned that time management was a skill that had allowed me to continue easier with balancing my life at CCDT. I make sure to mange my school work much before the due dates as well as scheduling time with family. I also believe staying positive is an important behaviour that has allowed me to do what I do today and balance my life with CCDT.

What skills do you think your training, performing, and overall experience with CCDT have given you that are transferable to other aspects of your life?

At CCDT we learn how to work with each other in challenging situations and to be able to adapt to different choreographers with different ideas. Having a strong skill of cooperation and to be strong problem solvers -- this allows me to connect with many more people in my life. Having the ability to work with others and problem solve in any situation has enabled me to excel in school and in my social life.

Who is someone who regularly inspires you as a dancer/artist/creator/human being?

My mom -- she is the reason I've gained a strong sense of determination in dance. She pushes me to always work hard and reminds me of how much I love dance. She emphasizes how important it is to dance for myself, and always provides me with courageous words that regularly inspire me to be happy and work hard.

What are you totally obsessed with these days?

I'm totally obsessed with astrology and the science behind how astrology portrays a character of you. Even though many people don't believe in astrology I just find it fun to analyze people with it.

Kaiya, left, with Melodie Yeung. Photo by Francesca Chudnoff.

Share one of your favourite personal memories about your time with CCDT.

My favourite memory with CCDT was the tour to New York City to perform [at the Limón Company's 70th Anniversary International Dance Festival in 2015]. On the way back to Toronto, Natasha (CCDT's Associate Artistic Director) and I were going through security. The officer asked if Natasha was my mom and we both laughed about how similar Natasha and I looked and how Natasha isn't my mom as the officer had thought. Till this day we still laugh about it although it had happened 3 years ago!

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about auditioning for CCDT?

When walking into CCDT auditions I would give the advice of being yourself. Don't try to be someone else you're not because here at CCDT what makes the company really strong is our unique individuality. We have different strengths as individuals which is a strong additive to the Company. That is what makes us different, and is something [the panel] looks for in an audition. Your vibe and strengths are a true skill that will help you in a CCDT audition.

One of Kaiya's favourite quotes:

Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. – A. A. Milne

Kaiya's next CCDT shows will be at Toronto's Fleck Dance Theatre, where she will perform in our home season production Light Years, May 24-25, 2019. Come see her dance feature roles in world premieres by Jennifer Archibald and Nicole Caruana, as well as in returning works by Roderick George and Deborah Lundmark.

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